"Lighten up, Francis"
It appears that the host of defensive/holding midfielders that have been paraded through the Arsenal Media Transfer Gauntlet may have been in vain. Noted reporting enthusiast Jamie Sanderson says that Arsenal have all but abandoned the search for a partner/competitor/replacement for Alex Song from outside the current team, as Arsene Wenger has decided to hand the opportunity to Francis Coquelin instead.
So for those of us who are big fans of the Coq, this could be a fun year.
Sanderson says this is not due to Arsenal being unable to bring in a player with the ability necessary (at least not exclusively), but rather due to Wenger feeling that none of the available players - Yann M'Vila, Lucas Biglia, Etienne Capoue, or Kara Mbodj - were a sure thing, and fearing high price tags on players that may not be improvements. Sanderson:
Wenger had made signing a more natural holding player a priority this summer, with worries that Song’s new found roaming style often leaves the back door open in critical matches. But doubts over M’Vila’s temperament, Capoue’s maturity and whether Mbodj and Biglia can adapt to the Premier League, have left the Gunners boss unwilling to take a chance on any of them, with all boasting fees in excess of £10 million.
So instead, the club will promote from within. This shouldn't be a massive shock, based on interviews Wenger gave before the friendly with the Malaysian XI on rumors that M'Vila was a strong target:
No. We wait on Diaby and Wilshere. When you look we have Song, Ramsey, Coquelin, Wilshere, Arteta and Diaby. In defensive midfielders and box-to-box players we are not short if they are all coming back. If we have setbacks in pre-season it could be different.
Coquelin impressed last year in limited appearances, showing versatility by playing in midfield and at fullback, as well as skill as a passer and strength as a tackler. It remains to be seen how effective he will be in an expanded role, though - in other words, while spending upwards of £15m on a player like M'Vila would be a risk, this is not a risk-free choice either.
As we saw earlier today, Coquelin has been awarded the number 22 shirt for the season, which is further indication of Wenger's increased trust in the young Frenchman. He could certainly change his mind as it pertains to the available defensive midfielders, but at the moment it appears that the manager's priority is strengthening the midfield attack.