When France was up against England at Wembley last night, it was obviously a poignant occasion for all concerned. The eyes of both the countries were glued to the Stadium as it was a heart-warming show of solidarity and, of course, sporting extravaganza. One of those eyeing on the television from afar was Arsenal’s new starlet Francis Coquelin, who is still waiting for his first call-up to the senior France team.
The country of his birth was defeated 2-0 at the hand of the nation where he is now enjoying professional life, and yet rather a surprise that Coquelin is not in contention for a national call-up.
It’s the one thing surely missing from the French maestro’s remarkable ascendance in North London. Not so distant past but merely 12 months ago, he was playing for Charlton Athletic in the second division of English football. And now he is one of the regular starters in both Premier League and Champions League. The 24-year-old French midfielder’s unique skill-set has now made him integral to this Arsenal starting eleven; it’s surely not an exaggeration to say that Coquelin is right now may be one of the first names on Arsenal’s team-sheet.
Yet France manager Didier Deschamps till now remains unmoved. At 24, the Arsenal man is still waiting for his first ever senior call-up. Though he has many more years ahead of his career to amend that honour, anybody can suggest he will be particularly desperate to make it to the national team in the upcoming months.
Next summer, France is hosting the European Championships, and Coquelin is no doubt eager to have his major competition bow on his own country.
But according to his recent comments, this is not his absolute focus right now. When speaking to the official website of Arsenal, Coquelin made it absolutely clear that he prioritises the club form for now.
“Every player wants to represent their country and the Euros in France are something massive for any French player to be a part of,” he revealed.
“To be part of the squad would be amazing but there are loads of things to do first and the most important thing is Arsenal. If I play well here maybe I will get a chance for France, but the most important thing is Arsenal.”
It’s surely a music to the ears of the Gunners supporters because for them no tournament, no matter how big, how prestigious, should not come before club affairs.
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But Arsenal fans will also feel that Coquelin’s recent performances deserve an international recognition. There is really a strong tradition of fighting Arsenal midfielders occasionally transferred to the France international squad, looking back almost two decades to the highly praised axis of Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira. Despite the negligence till now, it seems that Coquelin will also eventually make that step too in the future.
As a defensive-minded midfielder himself in his long career, France manager Deschamps might have some admiration for Coquelin’s effective style of play. The issue is perhaps more with the wealth of options at his disposal. France currently are bolstered with a vast midfield options: Deschamps already found a way to incorporate the highly talented Paul Pogba alongside the two powerhouses of Blaise Matuidi and Moussa Sissoko.
There is also two other Premier League talents Deschamps has to consider in the form of dynamic Morgan Schneiderlin and Yohan Cabaye, a deep-lying playmaker. That is even not mentioning one more name – Maxime Gonalons, who has been exceptionally consistent right at the base of Lyon midfield.
Coquelin’s greatest rival for a place in the national squad may actually be an ex-Arsenal man. This season, former Arsenal and Chelsea midfielder Lassana Diarra is enjoying a somewhat surprising renaissance. Back in the summer transfer window, Marseille’s gambling on recruiting two not so flourished talents, who had once played at the Emirates Stadium, Diarra and Abou Diaby on free transfers didn’t work fully.
Abou Diaby is still suffering from injury nightmares, but Lassana Diarra has been a revelation since joining Marseille, as his performances gave him a chance to make his way to the national team once again. So it’s rather unlikely that Deschamps will find a place for both Diarra and Coquelin in his EURO 2016 team.
For Coquelin, It has to be a frustrating state of affairs. It’s not that the Arsenal midfielder hasn’t got the much international pedigree. If we go back to 2010, he used to be a key member in the u-19 France team who won the junior European Championships.
He would definitely love to repeat that honour at senior level also next year, but the current scenario suggests France manager has some other ideas. All Coquelin can do right now is work hard to continue his excellent form in the club level. He may not feature in next summer’s EURO on home soil, but international call-up is just a matter of time for sure.