I was going to sell Francis Coquelin but now he's irreplaceable

The defensive midfielder fractured his nose against Everton on Sunday but such is his new-found importance to the team that Wenger will instruct his medical team to construct a support that will enable him to take his place at QPR this evening.

It was already hard enough to recognise the 23-yearold from the player who started the season. Having failed to live up to the promise that persuaded Wenger to sign him as a teenager in 2008, he had already been on loan in previous seasons to Lorient and Freiburg.

Having failed once again to make an impact last summer, in November Wenger resigned himself to sending the midfielder out on loan to Charlton till Christmas with a view to selling him permanently in January.

But instead of a shop window, the Valley would turn out to be Coquelin’s metaphorical telephone box.

When Wenger put out an alert following injury to Mikel Arteta, Coquelin flew to the rescue. So good was he in covering for the club captain, three months down the line he is still in the role with a new contract under his utility belt. Even the Arsenal manager was awestruck.

“It is a surprise to everybody,” he said. “I never say never to anybody. In my job you have to be open-minded. You have to make decisions at times but never close the door completely for anybody.

“Was he in my plans for the season? No he was not. I told him, at the start of the season, to give absolutely everything from the start of the season until Christmas. Then we will see together and see where you are.

“In my own mind I thought if he doesn’t play at Christmas at all, and there’s only six months of his contract to go, I will let him go somewhere else. So he wasn’t happy when I called him back early. He was playing at Charlton and he thought I had just called him back as cover.

“He at least expected to play in the first match back against QPR but didn’t so he was surprised when I played him against West Ham.

“He knew it was an opportunity for him. Sometimes when you wait for such a long time to get your chance and you get it, the more you have suffered before the more you enjoy it. The human being is a strange animal.

“He has gone through a lot of doubt, questioning himself. Now that he has a chance he doesn’t want to let it slip away. But he is a winner – that’s why he is so committed.”

Having recovered from having his nose put out of joint metaphorically, Coquelin is not about to let the physical version destroy the momentum he has built up since.

Born in Laval, France – not the planet Krypton – it is unlikely the closeted academy graduate was exposed to radiation or bitten by a spider. To what, then, does Wenger attribute Coquelin’s dramatic change?

“He analysed well what he is good at, defending in midfield,” he said. “He was in between the playmaking position and a box-to-box player. He is not that, he’s a sitting player who can win the ball.

“You don’t always have all the qualities but you have to express what you’re good at. And he’s good at that. Now he has restricted his game to that and you make success in life with what you’re good at.”

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