Arsenal successfully survived a second-half onslaught by Newcastle yesterday afternoon to come away with all three points in a 2-1 win that saw the Gunners display yet more steel and determination – something they have been criticised for lacking so many times in the past.
Arsene Wenger‘s side have managed to grind out results in the past few months and some of the credit has been directed towards French midfielder Francis Coquelin who has been praised for his performances since becoming a first-team regular in December.
The 23-year-old has given Arsenal a sense of stability that has enabled them to win ten of the 12 games in which he has started in the Premier League, giving them a win percentage of 83% when he plays, compared to just 44% when he doesn’t.
Every time a new transfer window approaches, fans and the media are crying out for Arsenal to bring in a strong defensive midfielder to add physical presence in the centre of the field and give the back line some protection.
Many will point to Nemanja Matic at Chelsea as the ideal type of player that Arsenal could use and it has already been well documented as to how important Matic is to the Blues, both physically and statistically as their results have suffered when he doesn’t play.
But do Arsenal really need to sign another defensive midfielder? Matic is regarded as one of the best in the business at that holding role – the same position Coquelin plays. So how do the two compare?
The stats show that Coquelin is in-fact slightly more effective than Nemanja Matic defensively with more tackles, blocks, interceptions, clearances and aerial duels won per-game.
However, Matic has a stronger attacking intent with more key passes, chances created and assists, as well as a better pass completion ratio.
And this is where most will say that despite his superior defensive performance, Coquelin hasn’t quite mastered his all round game in the way Matic has, which is why he may possibly not be considered the missing piece of the jigsaw for Arsenal.
Whether or not the Gunners will bring in another defensive midfielder in the summer remains to be seen, but what we do know is that Arsenal have certainly been more successful with Coquelin in the team.
Polish youngster Krystian Bielik was brought in from Legia Warsaw during the January transfer window, but at just 17-years-old, it may be too early for him to be considered ready to play, although Wenger tends to gives the youth players a chance at some stage – usually in the League Cup.
With eight games remaining of this Premier League season, Arsenal are just one point behind second placed Manchester City, as well as having booked a place in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, so it could still be a successful campaign and one in which Francis Coquelin will certainly play a large part.