Arsene Wenger: Francis Coquelin didn’t want Arsenal return

The French coach has revealed that the midfielder was happy playing regularly at Charlton.

One of the finds of the Premier League season has been the emergence of Francis Coquelin at Arsenal since the turn of the year.

The French defensive midfielder looked increasingly likely to leave North London this summer, but has established himself as a crucial member of Arsene Wenger’s first team since the turn of the year.

Coquelin has had to bide his time for a chance to play in the Emirates Stadium first team, with loan stints elsewhere his only source of regular football.

The 24-year-old was out on loan at Charlton earlier this season, before being recalled to his parent club due to a spate of central midfield injuries to senior players.

Wenger has revealed that Coquelin did not initially want to rejoin Arsenal as he felt he would not be given an adequate chance to show what he was capable of.

“He went to Charlton and I sent somebody to watch him,” Wenger told the official Arsenal site.

“The reports were positive and I called him back after five weeks, and he wasn’t happy.

“I said to him, ‘why are you not happy?’ and he said, ‘I was playing regularly for Charlton and you called me back just to cover and not to play me’.

“We went into the first game and I didn’t start him. Then we went to West Ham United and I started him. He was surprised because we played at home against QPR and I didn’t play him, but I did away at West Ham.

“Since then, he has not moved out of the team because he sticks to what he is strong at - winning the ball and using it well. What is also surprising is that he’s very good in the air because he has a very good leap.

“I always remind him that we have gone through a long period of suffering and I tell him not to forget that - always remember who you are. That is a very great example for young kids because you make a career with one dominant quality, but sometimes you forget who you are.

“He’s a good example but the other good example is that he arrived at 17 and has finally made it at 24. It’s unbelievable how patient and open-minded you have to be.”

Arsenal have lacked a central midfielder of authority since the days of Patrick Vieira, but the emergence of Coquelin could well fill the void for the foreseeable future.

Given that the Frenchman, who is being touted for a call-up to the senior France squad in the near future, has signed a new long-term contract with the Gunners, it could well impact on Wenger’s transfer thoughts ahead of next season.

FIFA World Cup 2018FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia - click here for all of our coverage...

Register for ARSENAL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch