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Francis Coquelin – Arsenal’s unlucky young gun

Francis Coquelin made his second appearance of the season for Arsenal as they breezed past Coventry City 6-1 at the Emirates on Wednesday night. The defensive midfielder has made huge progress in his development at Arsenal where the time may now have come for his to make his step up to the first team.

The Frenchman has made 12 senior appearances for Arsenal since joining the club as a 17-year-old in 2005 from Stade Lavallois after being spotted by former Arsenal player turned super-scout Giles Grimandi.

The youngster made his first team debut as a right back, coming on as a substitute for Fran Merida in a 6-0 win for the Gunners over Sheffield United in September 2008.

Whilst he has been utilized as a defender, predominantly as a right-back, his preferred position is as a defensive midfielder, which became glaringly obvious in his poor performance against Stoke in an FA Cup match the North Londoners lost 3-1.

Coquelin was unfortunate to make his Premier League debut in the Gunners’ worst ever loss under Arsene Wenger – their now infamous 8-2 thrashing to Manchester United at Old Trafford.

He was included in Arsenal’s first team squad last season, after spending the previous season on loan at French side LC Orient where he made 24 appearances in Ligue 1, scoring one goal and boosting his chances of playing for the French national team, for whom he has been selected at U17, U18, U19, U20, and U21 levels.

Upon his return to Arsenal, the Frenchman played in another bout of painful defeats for the Gunners, against North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur to whom they lost 2-1 and making his Champion’s League debut in a 3-1 away defeat to Olympiacos.

Whilst he hasn’t had the best of luck in his Arsenal career, the Frenchman, now 21, is hoping he can finally reap the rewards of his hard work. Having applied his trade as a defender, he has now broken into the first team and, more importantly, in his preferred position.

He might just get his chance this season after the departure of Alex Song, formerly Arsenal’s first choice in Coquelin’s position. However, the youngster will have to fight again for his place – the converted Mikel Arteta has been outstanding as the Gunner’s holding midfielder and with Emmanuel Frimpong’s return from injury on Wednesday, Coquelin will have to prove himself worthy of his place in the team.

If Wednesday’s night’s performance is anything to go by, he’s certainly up for the challenge.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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