Coquelin returns as Elneny debut looms + Arsecast 377

Arsecast - the Arsenal podcast

Morning all, welcome to Friday. Where did that week go? Thankfully it’s the end of January so we get paid again and dinner won’t consist of tinned peach slices and dried herbs because they’re the only things left in the cupboard (along with the ketchup, of course, which does not belong in the fridge).

We’re heading into an FA Cup weekend and there’s some good news on the injury front as Francis Coquelin and Tomas Rosicky are available again, with Danny Welbeck not too far behind. While I think the latter is still a fantastic player and can bring something to this team for the rest of the season, he’s very much an added bonus, sort of like a temporary power-up in a video game. Put him on late in a game and let him buzz around a tiring opposition when we need him.

Coquelin, though, has been really missed. That he’s back almost a month earlier than first predicted is almost unprecedented in Arsenal terms. We’re so used to setbacks and delays when it comes to injured players returning, this is a very pleasant thing altogether. The manager said he’s come through two weeks of full training and he’s ready to play.

This weekend is a great chance for him to get some minutes under his belt again, and while it would be great to have him available for Southampton on Tuesday, I wonder if we might be a bit cautious. It will depend on how tomorrow goes, what the after-effects are for him etc, but if we view the time off for Alexis as a vague positive in that he’s had a chance to recharge his batteries, the same could apply to Coquelin.

Hopefully this will feel like a mid-season break more than anything else, and he’ll come back ready to pick up where he left off. It might be more of a challenge for Welbeck, of whom the manager said:

Danny Welbeck is not completely ready but he is not far. He needs a game or two because he’s been out since last April. The Stoke [under-21] game [on 30 January] is too soon because he only had one session with the team, and that is too short.

That’s natural, but an injection of fresh legs into the team in the coming weeks with Alexis, Welbeck, Rosicky, new boy Elneny, the ability to get our Coq out again, might just be the thing we need. Speaking of the new signing, it’s interesting to note that he is the first central midfielder Arsene Wenger has paid actual money for since Mikel Arteta joined for £10m in August 2011.

Look at the players who have played in there in that time period:

Aaron Ramsey – Already at the club
Jack Wilshere – Already at the club
Abou Diaby – Already at the club
Francis Coquelin – Already at the club, then not, then at the club, then not, then back again etc
Santi Cazorla – Signed as an attacking midfielder/playmaker
Kim Kallstrom – Loaned from BMX Superstars
Mathieu Flamini – Freebie
Mesut Ozil – Playmaker genius
Calum Chambers – Signed as a defender

So, Elneny cost us real life actual cash money – perhaps even more than was first reported. Does that tell us something about him or what the manager thinks of him? I think it probably does, even if it also tells us something about the state of the squad this January and the pressing need to rejuvenate an area of the team that’s going to be affected by the departure of some veterans come the summer.

It wouldn’t be any surprise to see Flamini, Arteta and Rosicky move on this summer, and there has to be some uncertainty over Wilshere, so Elneny is the first piece in the new puzzle. I’ve said before that I think his arrival was hastened by the injuries, that he was likely a summer purchase brought forward, so I’m really interested to see what he can do and what he brings to the team. Chances are he’s going to make his debut tomorrow against Burnley, and it’s always exciting to see a new player unwrapped, and what he can do.

Right then, time now for this week’s Arsecast and today’s show is a round table discussion with Goonerholic, The Man from East Lower, and Andrew Allen, taking stock of where we are right now and what lies ahead for the rest of the season. We discuss the last few games of January, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, new boy Mohamed Elneny, the players returning from injury, the threat of Leicester and the other teams in the title race, the closing of the transfer window, and lots more.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download the Arsecast directly, use the link below the player, and if you are a regular listener via iTunes, if you would be so kind as to leave a review/rating that would be greatly appreciated.


The manager will have his press conference today, so we might get a better idea of what his plans are for the weekend. There’s going to be some rotation for sure, especially with midweek Premier League action, so catch up on all that over on Arseblog News throughout the day.

Bonus reading this morning: Good stuff from Tim Stillman on celebrations in football and how they’re viewed in this over-analytical world we live in.

More from me tomorrow, with a full preview of the game, live blog, and all the rest. Until then, have a good one.


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