In July 2008, at the young age of 17 years, Francis Coquelin joined one of the biggest clubs in the world – FC Arsenal. Only two months later, he made his competitive debut for the club. Throughout the next few years, through hard work and his undeniable natural talent, Coquelin became a consistent fixture in the Arsenal first team squad, albeit often appearing from the bench, which culminated in a ‘man of the match’ display against FC Shalke 04 in the Champions League last October. However, three months later he would pick up a hamstring injury that would put him out of the squad, and he struggled to make it back in. From February until the end of the season, he only appeared in two first team games. In short, he became ‘The Forgotten Frenchie,’ and today we look at his story.
Francis Coquelin was born in Laval, Mayenne – a small town in western France. However, it was a lucky twist of fate that first brought him to professional football, for the young Coquelin was more interested in other sports. He says ‘to be honest my first sport wasn’t football, I was playing tennis (in my youth).’ In fact, he owes a lot to his cousin, who told a 10-year-old Coquelin ‘Why don’t you join the (local) club?’ Coquelin claims he always knew he wanted to be ‘a top sportsman,’ but it was his cousin who directed him towards football.
The club that Coquelin arrived at was AS du Bourny, where he was to stay for the next 5 years. Soon, however, the biggest club in his region, Stade Lavallois, was knocking on his door. He spent three years there, from the age of 14 to 17, and broke into the French U17 squad. It was during one of these U17 games in the 2008 world championship that he was spotted by Arsenal scout Gilles Grimandi, and he soon completed his move to the Gunners in July that year.
It was not all so easy for Coquelin though. He had to make serious sacrifices to fulfil his dream – he had to move away from his family in France and abandon the exams he was about to take in France, something his mother still holds against him to this day.
At Arsenal, Coquelin slowly became the versatile player we know today. Naturally a defensive midfielder, during the fullback crisis at Arsenal last season Arsene Wenger deployed him at right back, a position in which he now feels comfortable.
Things looked promising at the start of the 2012-13 season, with Coquelin playing 18 times for the first team before the New Year. However, his season suddenly capitulated in January when, after picking up his injury, he never recovered his spot in the first team squad.
With his poor finish to the season, rumours have begun to spread about his future with Arsenal, with French paper l’Equipe claiming that he is on the way out to search for first team football. One team heavily linked with a possible transfer is Schalke 04, ironically the team against whom Coquelin produced his best display in an Arsenal shirt. And so, the question remains, what next for this talented young Frenchman?
N.Barbakadze, Get French Football News.