Monday 23 April 2018

Francis Coquelin makes case for the defence

Francis Coquelin could be a defensive option for Arsene Wenger
Francis Coquelin could be a defensive option for Arsene Wenger

Francis Coquelin could be set to operate as a makeshift defender for Arsenal as manager Arsene Wenger looks to deal with a number of injuries heading into the new season.

The Gunners boss revealed earlier in the week that Per Mertesacker is set to be out for a number of months with a knee injury, while fellow centre-backs Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny were also left behind as the squad flew to the United States for two pre-season fixtures.

Gabriel is ill while Koscielny is on an extended break having reached the final of Euro 2016 with France.

That means Calum Chambers is the most experienced central defender on the tour, with new signing Rob Holding also likely to play a major part in both games - starting with the MLS All-Stars on Thursday evening.

And, although Wenger has said Mertesacker's injury will force him back into the market for further defensive recruits, it appears midfielder Coquelin could become an option at the back.

When the club's official Snapchat account asked what he had been focusing on in training, the 25-year old replied: "I've been playing centre-back and I've been bossing it."

While Coquelin appears confident in his ability to adapt to a new role, goalkeeper Petr Cech conceded the absence of German World Cup-winner Mertesacker is a blow.

"He is a great player, a great part of the team with his experience," Cech told ESPN FC when asked about the effect of Mertesacker's lay-off.

"You cannot just replace a world champion just like that because obviously the experience of him, the games he played and he's one of the captains. That says it all.

"We will need to make sure that the players who will get their chances to play more, they will take it and they will rise to the occasion.

"Hopefully we will be able to start the season well and once he's fit he will come back (with the team in) a position where we all want to be."

Cech, preparing for his second season at the Emirates Stadium since his move across London from Chelsea, then called on Wenger's other defenders to step up given the current situation.

"Now with Per out, the challenge and the possibilities for every central defender is bigger," he added.

"It's up to Holding how he's going to play and how he's going to work. The same is true for Gabriel and Calum Chambers. This is their moment to show the manager they are up to the task."

Press Association

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