Arsenal boss explains decision to play Coquelin at centre-back

By on November 5, 2017


Arsene Wenger has explained his strange decision to play Francis Coquelin at centre-back during Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester City this afternoon.

Wenger seemed to have reverted back to a four-man defence when the line-ups were revealed an hour before kick off with Coquelin tipped to be deployed in midfield alongside Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka.

Arsenal’s own Twitter account published a graphic suggesting we were going four at the back with Hector Bellerin, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac expected to line-up in defence.

However, within seconds of kick off it became apparent that Wenger had decided to stick with our 3-4-2-1 formation with Coquelin playing in the middle of a back three with Kos and Monreal.

I was flabbergasted by the decision and while Coquelin was by no means our worst player, he was clearly out his depth trying to keep a grip on Aguero, Sterling and Sane.

The Frenchman was hauled off minutes after City went 2-0 ahead as Wenger desperately tried to get us back in the game and it’s safe to say the experiment back fired.

However, the boss has tried to justify his decision by suggesting he was left with little option than to play Coquelin at the back due to a pile up of injuries in defence.

Shkodran Mustafi and Calum Chambers were already ruled out so when Rob Holding picked up a thigh strain and Per Mertesacker reported to training ill on Saturday, Wenger says he had to go with Coquelin in the back three.

Wenger is quoted as saying by Football London:

I can explain to you that Mertesacker came in yesterday morning sick and that Holding had a thigh strain.

Debuchy just comes back from a long time absent. I don’t see that as a big problem. To play in the middle, if you are a defensive midfielder it is exactly the same.

I don’t think that was a problem in our game.

Clearly we were unfortunate to see Mertesacker and Holding join Mustafi and Chambers on the sidelines but Wenger had other options rather than going with Coquelin.

For a start, he could have chosen a specialist centre-back from the U23’s to come in to the first team or he could have switched to a 4-3-3 formation as we all thought when we saw the line-ups.

However, if he really wanted to stay with the back three and wanted some experience in defence, then why didn’t he go with Mohamed Elneny?!

Elneny has been playing at centre-back in the Europa League and League Cup all season so was surely the most suitable choice out of him and Coquelin? It just made no sense, especially considering how poor Coq was against Red Star Belgrade on Thursday night.

It’s also concerning that the manager seems to think that centre-back and defensive midfield are ‘exactly the same’ position?! To me, that’s just explains why our defence has been cr*p for the last decade as Wenger clearly has no respect for proper defenders.

It was another bizarre line-up from Wenger as he also opted to drop Lacazette and play Sanchez through the middle with Iwobi in attack – which was another experiment that went horribly wrong.

So for all the poor decisions that went against us today, Wenger’s horrible team selection was equally to blame for our defeat today.

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