Coquelin, Özil and Wenger’s Attacking Triumvirate

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There is no chance at all that any of us have come down from the collective high after Arsenal won it’s record 12th FA Cup and 2nd in as many years. But time unfortunately will not stand still, and as the wheels turned when I woke up this morning and instantly started to consider what (at least for me) needs to transpire this summer, I was immediately galvanized to write my final piece for ABW this season.

Francis Coquelin

He’s been the talk of the north part of town for the second half of the season. Door crashing into London Colney after being on loan at Charlton, and being one of the key catalysts for our march to a third place finish and FA Cup glory.

But as the season has begun to wind down and many looking ahead to summer business and next season, many are asking the question as to what will happen to the Frenchman with regards to his place in Wenger’s XI.

Arsène, for better or worse (at times) is known for his loyalty to players, but there have been murmurings amongst many of the support if we should try to look to improve on him in the summer, and if the brilliant form he showed for half the season would translate to a full domestic and European campaign moving forward.

As I discussed this earlier in the morning with my friend and loyal ABW follower Catherine (@coygoonersgirl), I made my point clear and simple (to which she agreed whole heartedly) – when I look at Coquelin, still just 24 years old, I see our first choice holding midfielder for the next eight years.

Numbers do not tell the whole story, but when you pull them, Coq was right up there as one of the best if not the best holding midfielder in the Premier League…what would that say about us if the way we thanked him for his services and contributions was to bring someone else with the view of replacing him? I am all for depth and options, but there is a difference between acquiring depth and bringing in a person to improve on a position, especially one that doesn’t need to be improved.

It’s understandable that everyone wants to put in a proper title challenge from the first match to the last in the next domestic campaign, and given that United and City are sure to reload to chamber, many of us know it won’t be an easy task to pip our rivals for the title. There is money to spend and yes we should spend it, but spending it wisely is so often the difference between success and failure. Spend too much and we risk ruining the fabric of what we currently have, while spending too little means we may fall behind in the race for first – like everything in football, it’s about finding the right balance.

Given his age, his desire to take his chance when he finally was given it and the unquestionable importance his role in the first-team now comes with, Coquelin certainly must be considered one of the keystones that we build a title challenge on and around…not just currently, but for years to come.

My Crusade-like defense of Mesut Özil

If my conversation with Catherine was the highlight of my morning (well, so was waking up next to my dog and his shenanigans) then the on-going two-week debate I have found myself in, pertaining to Mesut Özil and his supposed lack of quality was certainly the low point…all before 9:30am no less.

This certainly won’t be the first time I have written in his defense this season, but I am happy to say it will be the last…until I have to yet again in the next.

But to the point here, and to be blunt, it’s very hard for me to respect the opinion of anyone who refuses to not only rate Özil as a footballer, but also those who seek any (and I mean any) semblance of an argument as a beachhead to build upon.

The latest installment comes by way of my friend Lawrence, a passionate Gooner of over thirty years, but a staunch Özil detractor. This morning I was graced with a Facebook comment of his stating, “How many times does Özil win Man of the Match? And how many put him in their team of the season? As long as he doesn’t win those awards or get into team of the season, he’s not good enough.”

Now, I will give you a moment and process that little nugget of absurdity, and move forward in the interim. First and foremost, there are a minimum of twenty-two players in a match, twenty-eight if both manager uses all three subs…someone has to win the match award, but that has zero bearing on a players effectiveness on the pitch.

No one can argue against how instrumental at the back Laurent Koscielny is for us, but as one Twitter follower stated, how many times has he won the match award?

Usually, the award goes to a player who entertained, as well as produced the goods on the day in question. So, by that logic, my friend must also think Kosc lacks quality as well…which he does not.

The other common argument, one that my friend loves, is Özil’s supposed lack of work rate and some unexplainable thought that he cannot play a direct style of football. Considering Özil burst on to the scene while at Werder Bremen and then rose to prominence on the continent for Real Madrid, two sides that live and die on quick and incisive counter attacks, the notion that he cannot contribute or shine at a higher pace is laughable.

I will concede that the German’s body language often times mimics a lack of passion or willingness to work hard, but that’s simply just not true. It’s been well documented that he is very much a confidence player, and when he feels he is not playing well, he lacks the ability to hide his disappointed. I agree that he must improve in that area, but when the numbers unveil that only David Silva created more chances per ninety minutes and more key passes per ninety minutes than Özil this season, the argument that he lacks the goods should cease to exist.

At the end of the day, if you ever expected him to be a swashbuckling Action Jackson, you were misinformed. He will always be that quiet maestro that never draws attention, but remains a key component as important as any.

Our attacking triumvirate

Building a title winning side will always start from the back and go up through the spine, but there is something to be said about having such an effective and cohesive group of attacking players. Barcelona has always been brilliant to watch, but the example of what they have now with Messi, Neymar and Suárez is proof positive that a brilliant attack on their day is the match winner.

We will never have any of those players at the club, but what we now potentially have with the aforementioned Özil, Alexis Sánchez and Theo Walcott (should he sign the contract) could very well turn into something special, and you only have to look at the final league fixture against West Brom as well as the FA Cup final against Villa to see what could be sitting on the quick burner ready to boil over.

The instant success of Sánchez at the club undoubtedly brought out the best in Özil
once he returned to form in the second half of the campaign. The two have formed an understanding in the final third of the pitch that has produced quite a few brilliant examples of how beautiful this game truly can be. Individually the two are world class, but on the same page, they are one of the stronger combined arms options in Europe.

If the Sánchez/Özil duopoly raises us to another level, then surely the addition of Walcott at center forward recently raises the possibilities even further.

Throughout his career on the south coast with Southampton before coming to north London, Walcott was seen by most if not all at St. Mary’s to be a center forward, and that was solidified by him appearing all throughout his youth career as such, even up till the point where we bought him. Throwing him out on the flank simply because he had blistering pace was never the way to get the best out of such an important asset, but his recent performances through the middle have shown just what he can do.

Pace, directness, ability to run off the shoulder through the channels and a willingness to score goals, Walcott offers something different than Olivier Giroud. That is not to in any way negate the important role and indeed the goals that the big Frenchman brings, but it does give us the important luxury of now having another option in the attack to bring something different, something we have missed since the days of his royal highness and Mr. Wonderland himself.

Part of truly being a title challenger, beyond performing at a high level consistently, is the ability to call on different tactics on different days depending on situation and opponent. Champions League home match? Giroud leads the line, but on an away day where we can it back and look to counter, surely Walcott is the logical choice. Options and tactical flexibility wins trophies, and this now gives us that important component we have been missing, to the point where the question if we need to buy another striker, in my mind at least, has been answered – no.

To conclude, I’d like to thank everyone at ABW for putting the faith in my writing ability, knowledge and passion for Arsenal and football on the whole, and for giving me a chance to contribute to their already wonderful and successful work. And to you the readers, thank you for enjoying the work we put out and interacting with us on Twitter in friendly and intelligent debate that we all love and enjoy. It’s been a great first year here, and I look forward to many more as we move forward. Happy Summer everyone.

Drew is our newest regular columnist here at ABW.  You can find him on Twitter here: (@AFCBvB1410).  When not writing for us, Drew also writes for Outside of the Boot and the Modern Gooner. He loves a good football debate; so don’t be afraid to chat with him on Twitter.

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