Francis Coquelin was a leader for Arsenal at Manchester City (just a month after playing for Charlton)… Arsène Wenger may have found his new Gilberto Silva
– Matt Morlidge for The Daily Mail, January, 19th
Don’t get me wrong, Francis Coquelin had a fantastic game at Manchester City last weekend. He was superb in front of our back line, kept an eye on David Silva extremely well and was one of the key men in our unexpected win at the Etihad Stadium.
However, any comparison with Gilberto Silva simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The Brazilian was a 25 years-old man with over 80 games at top-flight level in Brazil, was a regular with his national team and had just won the World Cup when he landed in North London; so far, Francis Coquelin is nothing more than a promising young player, far from being a regular at his Club and nowhere near France’s national team.
His encouraging performances and obvious qualities deserve praises, I agree, but what media seem to do at the moment is building a pedestal, only to be able to push him (and the Arsenal) down later. That’s a very old, vicious trick that British media love to do, over and over again. We shouldn’t be playing this game.
Many young players went through that, at the Arsenal and elsewhere, and many of them never really managed to live with sky-high expectations mounted by so-called football experts; Jack Wilshere is one of the brightest examples of how pitiless media can be: he was England’s next big thing when he broke into the senior team and his first appearances after the loan spell at Bolton earned him plenty of “he’ll do this, he’ll win that”; four years later, he’s an overrated player, addicted smoker whose body is way too fragile to be a star – according to the same experts.
Jack Wilshere seems to be strong enough to take any criticism and put them behind him, stay focused on his football and his recovery; will Francis Coquelin be able to do the same, shall he endure the same treatment?
Any young, promising player is branded “the new someone” and is expected to be as good as the original – if not better – when he’s several years younger than his role model. He must be young, talented, powerful, humble, experienced, loyal and – most important – he can’t put a single foot wrong, anytime. He’s inexperienced but he cannot afford a single mistake because that would mean immediate slaughter from those people who branded him a world beater or – coincidentally – the next Gilberto Silva. Francis Coquelin will have a bad day at some point; he’ll surely make mistakes and show that he still has a lot to learn and, at that moment, everyone will realize he’s not Gilberto Silva. He’s miles away from being as clinical as the Brazilian; he needs experience to improve his reading of the game and his positioning. He doesn’t have the stature to be a leader – even a silent one, like Gilberto Silva – in the dressing room, because charisma grows with minutes you spend on the pitch and battles you launch yourself into.
So far, Le Coq is a great squad player and he deserves to be ahead of Mathieu Flamini in the pecking order; his journey has been tortuous and complicated but he fought hard to come back and show he can play a role at the Arsenal.He must be rewarded with a new contract but also have a better, more experienced player in front of him to keep learning and keep improving.
I wish Francis Coquelin a wonderful career, I wish him to be more successful than Gilberto Silva and I hope he’s going to prove me wrong and be the answer to our central midfield’s struggles.
He’s not, yet.