Francis Coquelin – The Riddler

We have had heroes on the pitch. Those that elevate themselves above the accepted standard and lift all those around him. There is a fascination though, with heroes of a different kind.

Today’s society is enjoying a smorgasbord of superhero-inspired movies. Men and women, clad entirely in ludicrous spandex, sporting a mutant gene which allows them to perform acts which bend the laws of physics and questions reality.

Can players on the pitch compare to the heroes on the big screen? In a way, yes.

One of our greatest luminaries, Dennis Bergkamp, if transferred to an alternate universe – could be The Sliver Surfer. Tony Adams and his leadership qualities lend themselves to Captain America. What of the current squad?

Mesut Ozil would of course be, The Vision. Alexis Sanchez and his box of tricks would be Doctor Strange. Francis Coquelin?

Well, he’d be The Riddler.

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Let me explain.

When Francis Coquelin returned from Charlton on loan last season, it seemed to be a needless throw of dice by our manager. We had money in the bank, but his recall looked to be a desperate attempt to shore up a leaking hull that was shipping water with alarming frequency.

Throw in the fact the extra body would cost absolutely zip, and the move looked to be classic Wenger.

His success story is well chronicled. His inclusion in the side adds a layer of steel in a sometimes quivering underbelly. Last season, from January onwards, his stats showed he was the most effective defensive midfielder in the Premier League.

What this season has shown, is that his success is hugely dependant on a partner that can shift the balls quickly that he wins. Who that partner is? That is a mystery.

Hence, The Riddler.

Santi Cazorla remains the optimum choice. During Coquelin’s rise to prominence, it was the Spaniard who was his chief ally, always available to transition the team from under pressure to swift attack.

Francis wins the ball. Santi moves the ball. Simple plan.

This season has seen one half of the double act out of action, and the plan has gone up in smoke.

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We have seen Wenger pair him up with a succession of players who are tasked with the same mission as Santi had. Yet, they have failed. There has been no cohesion, no melding of minds. Whoever slotted in alongside the Frenchman, they have not been able to make the duopoly work. Much to the chagrin of Wenger and Gooners everywhere.

Mohamed Elneny has been the latest to take the central midfield slot alongside Coquelin. It was a partial success, but there was plenty of room for improvement. Now, we have seen the Egyptian take Coquelin’s spot and Ramsey has been the man with the responsibility of carrying the ball.

This does work, but at the crux of the matter is that Coquelin is a more effective defensive shield than Elneny and Santi Cazorla is a better midfielder than Aaron Ramsey. So why can’t we just play them instead?

We have so many options in midfield, and yet we are severely limited as some players just do not work well together. Unless we find a combination that works, or one of our current midfielders adapts to the situation, we may yet have to recruit once more. That would be a ludicrous option, given how well stocked we are in the middle, but it may just materialise.

Santi has had recent injury worries, and that may again leave Coquelin back a few steps in comparison to where he was last season. Can Wilshere be Coquelin’s partner? Seeing as his movement with the ball is better than Elneny and Ramsey, he would be the logical choice, but his fitness means he cannot be relied upon.

So this puts us back with Elneny and Ramsey. Elneny has been exemplary in his displays since joining, but Ramsey has been inconsistent, much like his choice of position.

So, who should play?

At this point in time, we all have opinions on it, but to optimise the talents of each midfielder, we need a cohesive team in the centre, who are both on the same wavelength. One will attack, whilst the other sits back. No words need to be said, they both know their role inside out. So, who has that in their locker?

It’s a mystery.

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