Arsene Wenger believes that Francis Coquelin would receive greater recognition had he cost £40million in January rather than joining Arsenal on a free transfer seven years ago.

The 24-year-old has started every Premier League game since December 28 after earning a surprise recall from a loan spell at Charlton earlier that month.

It appeared his career at the club was all but over having arrived in 2008 from Stade Lavallois following an impressive trial period having caught the eye of the Gunners scout Gilles Grimandi playing for France Under-17s.

However, Coquelin has since established himself as a key performer in a defensive midfield position many have long earmarked as one Wenger should strengthen with a big-money signing.

But the Arsenal manager said: “The world has changed. The appreciation today of the quality of a player is just down with the money you spend. If we had bought Coquelin at Christmas for £40m, everyone would say 'what a signing'. I am sorry he didn’t cost any money, he is still a good player.”

Wenger has kept tabs on a number of more established defensive midfielders including Southampton’s Morgan Schniederlin and William Carvalho of Sporting Lisbon but he insists Coquelin will remain at the club regardless having recently agreed a new long-term contract.

“What is for sure he has shown he has the capacity to play for us and play a big part in the success of the team,” said Wenger.

“I think nobody would dispute that his performances have been convincing and that he is ready for a fight even if somebody comes in. Even if somebody comes in, he will stay here. I extended his contract that means I believe in him.”.


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