I have five replica Arsenal shirts hanging in my bedroom wardrobe, one of which I am proud to wear, and four I am not.
For the sake of continuity, over the years I always ensured I purchased large versions of each jersey for the simple sake of re-use. I found out – probably the hard way – that spending copious amounts of money on kits that change with astonishing frequency just isn’t the right way to go, unless, of course, money is no object.
If however saving money is importnat – 40% of all Replica shirts from 6pm and all weekend
My choice of personalised printing has been called into question – and quite rightfully – many times in the past. Opting for names like ‘Nasri’, ‘Frimpong’ and ‘v.Persie’ on older kits are blotches on my printing past that I can only hope to one day forget.
There is, however, one shirt at my disposal that I’ll wear – especially on match days both at home or at the Emirates – with pride and confidence. It is the purple kit I bought in the opening weeks of the 2012/13 season. I decided that ‘Coquelin 22’ would look fantastic at the back of it. And it does.
Francis Coquelin has emerged rather quickly as one of Arsenal’s most outstanding performers. Assertive in the tackle, mature, orderly from a communicational standpoint, and surprising positional intelligence are aspects to his game which have overseen his rise to the first team splendidly.
I think all Arsenal fans can and should be immensely proud of his development – which largely emanated from pure gamble – within the last nine months. It is a credit to Francis alone that he made the most of an opportunity almost nobody expected him to undertake so successfully and convincingly.
But here’s the problem.
Watching him play at Selhurst Park last weekend – which, incidentally, was the catalyst for this piece – worried me slightly. I saw glimpses of the old Francis Coquelin; the Francis Coquelin that couldn’t control his discipline and couldn’t switch play or distribute effectively. It was concerning, for the simple matter that he is, by most accounts, our only suitable option in such a demanding role.
To his merit, Mikel Arteta looked composed and collected after such a long absence out of the team. He swept up and organised adequately, but with an injury record as long and frustrating as Mikel’s is, you begin to see just how reliant we are upon the Frenchman once labelled the ‘Police officer’ by a certain Thierry Henry.
And a youngster from within Arsenal’s academy will not prove a sufficient solution either. I think it highly probable and necessary that a second, natural anchorman be purchased – be it from abroad or from the Premier League – to satiate our need for depth in such a crucial position. We are, after all, a club ravaged by injury woes.
Thus far, Coquelin has been lucky to escape any major health or fitness setbacks. But at a club like Arsenal, you can never be too sure of a player’s place in the team. May I remind those reading that during game week 3 last season, Arsenal were hit by three huge injury blows, to Debuchy, Giroud and Ozil.
Without revolving all of my work around the prospect and ramifications of injury, though, I do want to spend time casting attention upon something which caught my eye again earlier this week after being re-tweeted onto my Twitter timeline. It was a video of Alan Hansen on Match of the Day twenty years ago, in which he said something that resonated with me immediately.
“The trick is always to buy when you’re strong.”
He couldn’t be more correct and if ever a team highlighted that particular truth, it’s the Arsenal team of 2015. You see, we are strong, we have a strong core, stable management and a huge wealth of talent, but we lack the ultimate depth in every position required to conduct an unsurpassable title challenge.
Francis Coquelin has played admirably in the holding role since his new-year promotion, but – if I may echo Mr Hansen for a moment – the trick is always to buy when you’re strong. Competition in the anchor role will not stifle or damage Francis in any way, shape or form. It will only assist in motivating and teaching him.
Over the past few days, social media speculation has been running rampant over the unconfirmed rumours that Karim Benzema may be heading to North London. Yes, I am excited by the prospect, but let us not forget that strengthening across the board is of vital importance, and not just in attack.
On the question of potential transfer targets, Arsenal are understandably limited. Not financially, of course, but more so practically. Who is available within the market right now could adapt to the style employed by Arsenal and provide appropriate cover or assistance for our defensive midfield options? It’s a difficult question to answer.
Club target William Carvalho has been ruled out until October through injury, though perhaps his acquisition could be a smart one in the long-term. Other potential candidates include one of the Bender brothers, but I’ve never professed to be a supreme talent scout, nor will I ever claim to be so.
So here we stand, with a couple of weeks of the transfer market left still to compete and bolster. It is my sincere hope that Arsene Wenger splashes the cash on the two, major aforementioned positions, and that even more crucially, he can provide Francis Coquelin with the means to compete for team placement, in order to help bring the best out of him.
Alan Hansen was – as with so many things sadly– absolutely correct on the subject and I hope Arsenal’s lingering in and around the transfer market proves productive and aids the current squad ahead of another long and gruelling campaign.
The trick, after all I repeat, is to buy when you’re strong