While one young Arsenal defensive midfielder, Emmanuel Frimpong, seems intent on making himself into a brand – DENCH! Leave it yeah! – his team-mate, Francis Coquelin, is going about his business in a much more reserved fashion.
The two players, who seem to be in direct competition for a spot in Arsenal’s first team next season, had two very different journeys to get to that position. Frimpong joined the Gunners at nine years old, while Coquelin was signed in July 2008.
Coquelin burst onto the stage (or should that be peeked around the corner and jogged onto the stage?) first, playing for Arsenal in friendlies soon after joining. He impressed in Austria during the annual tour in pre-season, and whispers began amongst Arsenal fans. Having played for the reserves since joining, he made his full debut in September 2008 – he lined up in a slightly unfamiliar right back position against Sheffield United in a 6-0 Carling Cup win, demonstrating his impressive versatility, a sign of things to come.
As for Frimpong, he was added to the reserve ranks in 2008, but made his debut for “the stiffs” the following year against Chelsea. This was having already played a major part in Arsenal’s successful FA Youth Cup campaign, in which he played alongside Jack Wilshere and Coquelin in midfield. He too played a prominent role in a tour of Austria, in 2010, before featuring impressively in that summer’s Emirates Cup.
Coquelin lined up in a slightly unfamiliar right back position against Sheffield United in a 6-0 Carling Cup win, demonstrating his impressive versatility, a sign of things to come.
However, injuries took their toll on the youngster. After a cruciate ligament injury kept him out for 9 months following his promising cameos in pre-season, he returned to fitness and figured as a substitute in a couple of early 2011/12 Premier League games, before starting against Liverpool. At the time, Coquelin was on loan to Lorient, so the fact that Frimpong was selected – during an injury/transfer crisis – was not a slight on the French midfielder.
Frimpong, who could play for either Ghana or England, impressed against Liverpool with an industrious, lively performance in the heart of Arsenal’s midfield. His performance was like that of a warrior, and one particular moment stands out when he took the ball on, charged forwards and unleashed a rocket of a shot which was tipped just wide by Pepe Reina. He turned to the Arsenal crowd, pumping full of adrenaline, and gestured fiercely for the crowd to up the ante, which went down a treat with Gooners.
A bust-up with public enemy number one only further endeared Frimpong to the Arsenal masses, with his passionate tweets – including one directed at the Man City midfielder – also increasing his popularity.
Sadly, another moment stands out from this game – after a seemingly ridiculous yellow-card for a slight altercation with Lucas, he received a second yellow for unfortunately up-ending the Brazilian in a clumsy late challenge. Despite receiving his marching orders, however, most Arsenal fans were impressed with Frimpong.
An apparent bust-up with public enemy number one Samir Nasri only further endeared Frimpong to the Arsenal masses, with his passionate tweets – including one directed at the Man City midfielder – also increasing his popularity. In January he joined Wolves, but having impressed initially during his loan spell, his stint was cut short when he received the exact same injury to his anterior cruciate ligament, but in the other leg.
Frimpong remains on the treatment table as it were, and this led to Coquelin being in with a chance to prove himself. He played in a few games in the second half of the season, at first at full back due to another injury crisis, and then later in midfield after an injury of his own.
Frimpong has become immersed in the DENCH brand that he and “musician” Lethal Bizzle have created, and still seems somewhat immature.
The two midfielders have both impressed in different ways for Arsenal on the pitch, and undoubtedly bring different qualities to the table. Coquelin, however, seems more grounded – Frimpong has become immersed in the DENCH brand that he and “musician” Lethal Bizzle have created, and still seems somewhat immature.
The differences between their personalities have probably been well-documented, and of course might well have a big impact on their respective careers. However, with more and more opinions emerging on their off-pitch styles, there hasn’t been much comparison of their playing styles.
Frimpong is, as stated earlier, much more of a ‘warrior; Arsene Wenger described him as “a battler”, and praised his immense spirit, while also insisting that he would channel said spirit in a bid to help Frimpong improve.
Coquelin is much less under-stated; he’s a tenacious ball-winning midfielder in the mould of, say, Mathieu Flamini – although Arsenal fans will hope he has a happier ending at the club. He’s an impressive passer of the ball, and the work he does in the middle of the pitch is often vital to Arsenal’s success when he plays.
Coquelin is much less under-stated; he’s a tenacious ball-winning midfielder in the mould of, say, Mathieu Flamini.
From these last two paragraphs, two separate conclusions might be made – that Coquelin fits in with the Arsenal style better, or that Frimpong could be useful to offer variety. If possible though, Wenger may look to keep both of them as squad options and rotate their positions like with Andre Santos and Kieran Gibbs, picking either one based on the specific game.
However, it seems as if, with Arsenal’s traditional abundance of players emerging in midfield, which adds to the talents that are already in the first team, that only one of Frimpong and Coquelin will ‘make it’ at Arsenal. While the former is perhaps limited technically, he does offer some qualities which Coquelin does not, so the two are pretty much neck-and-neck in the playing department.
Therefore it may well be that Frimpong loses out because of the ongoing circus around his personality. This isn’t entirely his fault – ten years ago nobody would have cared and he wouldn’t have had Twitter to showcase some potentially worrying – for a football manager at least – characteristics, but he still demonstrates immaturity at times, and if he doesn’t grow up completely, he might lose out to Coquelin.
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