Monday, 3 October 2011

Coquelin’s continued improvement is one of few positives from the Tottenham game

On Inside The Formation we'll look at an individual player's performance and analyse their input into the game. Joss Bennett looks at Francis Coquelin's role against Tottenham.

If we are to take one positive from a defeat to our North London rivals that is inevitably difficult to swallow, it really should be the performance – and continued improvement – of 20 year old French midfielder Francis Coquelin.

The fact that I’m writing about this player for the second time in as many weeks (after his excellent display against Shrewsbury Town) is surely evidence enough of the way this player is making headlines amongst Arsenal fans.

While the present appears dim, the future is certainly bright with players like Coquelin coming through the ranks.

In what was only his second league game (after he made his debut in the 8-2 defeat to Manchester United), Coquelin was yet again thrown into the deep end for his first North London derby, but once again worked hard and came through alive on the other side.

The youngster was one of few Arsenal players to really make a difference, and was one of only two outfield players to achieve a rating above 7 (7.1) from whoscored, together with Aaron Ramsey (7.7).

With Arteta quiet both in the offensive and defensive phase, Coquelin had his hands full trying to pick up the constant movement of Jermain Defoe and Luka Modric, with the former used in a deeper link-up role.

So Arsenal’s young Frenchman had a huge role to play to at least limit the extent to which Defoe was able to link up with boo-boy Emmanuel Adebayor, as well as cutting off the supply to Defoe from Spurs’ primary playmaker; Luka Modric.

In a disjointed and lacklustre midfield display, Arsenal were fortunate that Coquelin was at hand to keep the score down – breaking up play with five tackles, two interceptions and three clearances*.

In possession, Coquelin also impressed – his 87% pass completion* showing his ability to keep a cool head despite the overwhelming occasion. His simple, but effective, distribution play from behind Arteta and Ramsey in the 4-3-3 is also shown by his touch to pass ratio – he made the third most touches (84) for Arsenal, but rarely hesitated or held onto the ball for too long; he also made the third most passes of any Arsenal player (63)*.

Admittedly, Tottenham’s frantic pressing approach and the hard working Jermain Defoe (who himself made four tackles and two fouls*) meant Coquelin couldn’t afford to take too many touches but his neat passing map shows how he rose to the challenge.

 by Guardian Chalkboards

Perhaps most impressive of all was Coquelin’s excellent decision-making, however. The ability to make the right decision on a football pitch is often something that young players are forced to learn the hard way, but after a loan spell at Ligue 1 side FC Lorient, Coquelin appears to have come back to Arsenal with all the necessary experience.

Coquelin didn’t concede a single foul (while Frimpong has averaged two fouls per game in the league so far). We can add to that one “last man tackle”, the fact he won all of his tackles and that he was able to find a team-mate with two of his three attempted clearances* and we can see how adept he was at making the right decision; pass or hoof, dive in or hustle, etc.

A loss is a loss, and a loss against Tottenham is worse than any other, but there are always positives to take from games. A young player’s clear determination to succeed and play well for the club is - for me at least - one way to ease the pain of defeat and Francis Coquelin’s display against Spurs epitomised this attitude in all its glory.

*OPTA statistics courtesy of

Joss Bennett is co-editor and head writer of Arsenal blog Arsenal Report - a site for all Gooners interested in tactics, stats and the inner workings of the club. You can follow him on twitter and his read is work at Arsenal Report.

Video produced by CWDailyGooner.

Culann Davies is founder, head writer and video editor of Arsenal blog CWDailyGooner - a site for all Gooners interested in analysis of Arsenal's first teamers, youngsters and loanees in video form. You can follow him on twitter and read his work at CWDailyGooner.

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