In May 2009, an eclectic and globally assembled bunch of Arsenal youngsters won the FA Youth Cup. As so often is the case the huge and hopeful expectation that we might see a good number advance into the senior ranks has not been fulfilled. Many of the group such as Henri Lansbury, Jay Emanuel Thomas and Emanuel Frimpong had their opportunities under Wenger but only two of their peers are left standing at Arsenal. One of them was universally expected to succeed at the club, and the other was probably not even considered as likely as those names above, to break through into the first team.
If you have not guessed already the midfielder destined for stardom and glory was Jack Wilshere and the other, largely expected to slip back to France at the end of his first professional contract, was Francis Coquelin. Now in the summer of 2017, just over 8 years later, and the club is seemingly willing it sell the long established England International and keep, as a valued, if not always appreciated squad stalwart, the uncapped Frenchman. Wilshere is again in the treatment room, recovering from his latest broken bone, whilst Coquelin is preparing for the new season with his new best friend and Arsenal record signing Alexandre Lacazette.
As recently as the autumn of 2014, FA Cup winner, Jack Wilshere, fresh from a summer with England at the World Cup, was starting for Arsenal, while his friend, Coquelin was bench warming, after a miserable season long loan at Freiburg, where he had largely played out of position. By the end of October The Englishman has featured in 13 Premier League and Champions League for Arsenal and the Frenchman had not kicked a ball in anger. In early November, Coquelin was preparing for his debut off the bench for lowly Charlton on loan and Wilshere was starring for England with an assist as they beat the old enemy Scotland. A week later Wilshere, as so often in his young career, was to be injured again. He was not alone and injuries to Arteta and Ramsey caused Wenger to pick up the phone to SE London and call back his French, compatriot, Coquelin, who had until then seemed on a fast track to the Emirates exit door.
The rest, as they say is history, but I thought it would be fascinating to actually the parallel careers of the two 2009 Youth Cup winning midfield team mates
Interesting and revealing would you not say?
Eight years on from the shared success in the Arsenal Youth team Francis Coquelin has a similar number of professional club games under his belt and has pulled on the Arsenal shirt on more occasions than Jack Wilshere has. Can anyone honestly say they would have predicted that in 2011, as the Frenchman laboured to make his mark in France, with Lorient on loan and his English peer played close to 50 first team games and won plaudits for taking on Xavi and Iniesta in the Champions League?
The talismanic young gun on the fast read to stardom, the new ‘Chippy’, now finds himself at 25 surplus to requirements in N5. Although I am told he wants now to stay and fight, the club are keen to sell for the best price they can get. On the other side of the Youth Cup Winning midfield coin, we have Francis Coquelin, valued by Wenger and his fellow squad members, if not a touch ‘Marmite’ with the supporters. Wilshere facing the future with no certainty or clarity not in the plans of the team he has represented for some 16 years, whilst his ‘bon ami’ of so much of that time, prepares an exciting new campaign with another friend from French Youth football, Alexandre Lacazette.
I would sooner see Jack Wilshere stay but his career path and destiny seemed to have changed drastically. Many Fans would sooner see Coquelin depart I sense but football as they say ‘is a funny old game!’