Holding Coq Has Made Arsenal Hard Again
There is really, only one thing you can ask of a footballer and that is for them to do the job that you ask of them. And not be John Terry. So two things.
Francis Coquelin is both of those things. The Emirates’ Batman - the hero Arsenal deserves but not the one they (think) they need right now. On Sunday he represented the antithesis of Manchester City’s approach to the game.
For 90 minutes he patrolled the edges of his own 18-yard box protecting the back four and was everything City lacked, as the absence of Yaya Toure made the champions cut a very bleak figure at the Etihad.
Have Arsenal now learnt the lessons that other teams have taught them time and time again via five, six and even eight goal thrashings or were City as toothless as the Gunners usually are in these circumstances?
Only time will tell. Wenger’s men could plummet out of the FA Cup at Brighton next week and people would barely bat an eye-lid. But the strangest thing about Sunday’s result was that this didn’t feel like an anomaly, despite the fact it’s been over four years since Arsenal last won away to Manchester City. It looked like a routine victory for the club, a penalty scored and a free-kick optimised to full effect. Three points, job done, nice new haircuts for Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez, see you later.
Manchester City made it easy for them though. Vincent Kompany was as flat-footed and as clumsy as he tends to be from time-to-time but because he’s such a nice bloke that’s been completely overlooked. Before the penalty he fell over his own feet - that’s right, his own feet. Mertesacker or Koscielney would likely have to leave the country for a fortnight if they were responsible for such idiocy.
The home team also had 16 corners for which the majority did next to f*** all. And when it came to pressing Arsenal out of the match, which is usually the first port of call in these types of games, well there was almost none of it.
Santi Cazorla was the star-man yet again and even the often bewildering Arsene Wenger must know he can’t take the little Spaniard out his team for Mesut Ozil right now. He was allowed acres of space to dance through though and the tackles that came in resembled those half-hearted ones you make on a five-a-side pitch when you know you’re about to get nutmegged and embarrassed in front of all your mates.
Why? Manchester City are effectively a machine without an engine when Yaya Toure is absent. They’re like Arsenal immediately after Patrick Viera’s exit if we’re going to make obvious comparisons. He’d scored six in eight at the back end of 2014 and they were within a point of Chelsea. Since his African Cup of Nations sabbatical, Manchester City haven’t picked up a win.
Francis Coquelin is no Yaya Toure or Patrick Viera, let’s be absolutely clear about that, but since Wenger has grabbed his Coq and asked it politely to be ‘hard and brave for me’, Arsenal have had a steel about them that’s been missing for well over half a decade.
Could this be a temporary thing before it unravels in a poetically Arsenal way? Of course it could. But for now it’s solving a very troublesome problem and if it can do that up until mid-May then the Gunners have one less thing to worry about.
Now, about that centre-back?