Like most Arsenal supporters, I was very satisfied with our performance on Sunday against Stoke City. Although the Potters have an atrocious record at the Emirates Stadium, they have picked up a few decent wins away from home this season including a shock victory up at the Champions Manchester City so could not be underestimated. As it was, Mark Hughes’ side did not look threatening and we cruised to a comfortable 3-0 score line. The result was not the only positive at the weekend. Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Özil were both back on the substitutes bench after injuries.
Everyone has been waxing lyrical about the man they call Alexis and rightly so. The Chilean put in yet another top class performance; scoring two delightful goals and putting one on a plate for Laurent Koscielny. There is little I can add that hasn’t been said already except the fact Sanchez was an absolute bargain at £35 Million, especially if you consider that Manchester United bought Angel di Maria for nearly double that. The shrewd deal for the Chilean demonstrates that Arsene Wenger remains a genius and can still pull a rabbit from the hat. It also illustrates my belief that the transfer market is absurd and the larger price tag does not guarantee a better player.
A player who hasn’t been given the credit his impressive performance on Sunday warranted was Francis Coquelin. I would obviously love to buy an experienced holding midfielder this January (there’s still plenty of time left) but the French midfielder has really turned his Arsenal career around over the past few matches. This is a player who has had various loan spells including a month at Charlton this season and looked to be heading out of the Emirates door permanently this window. However, the 24 year old has seen that the side are crying out for a defensive midfielder and has seized the opportunity to get first team football by stepping up to the plate.
One part of this game that particularly impressed me was that he was not noticeable. People might think that it is a criticism, but the fact is when I watched the game back I felt he went about his job in a quiet but efficient manner. The thing with defensive midfielders is that you don’t want them to get forward much. I can never remember Gilberto Silva getting involved in the attacking play regularly, and I think Coquelin did a similar job in that he mopped up any mistakes, began attacks, but most importantly stayed back. He seemed to be everything that Arteta and Flamini are not; a disciplined sitter.
While some people might point out that Arsenal were not good defensively against Southampton and Coquelin started in that match, I would like to say that he had the inexperienced Callum Chambers next to him, who is clearly not a defensive midfielder. It is no coincidence that the two matches where Coquelin has been sitting in front of the back four on his own have both resulted in clean sheets. I would definitely like to see him start tomorrow as I think we stand more of a chance of winning away at Man City if we have a holding midfielder who does not have a short attention span (Flamini seems to get distracted by where the ball is on the pitch).
By Glen Shorey