Coquelin only emerged as a first-team regular midway through last season, providing cover for the injured Aaron Ramsey after being recalled from his loan at Championship Charlton in December.
The Frenchman impressed upon his return however, and adequately enough to make himself a first-team regular for the Gunners. The midfielder eventually made 30 appearances in all competitions, as well as playing the full 90 minutes in the club’s 4-0 FA Cup final win over Aston Villa.
But the 24-year-old has faced questions over his suitability at the Emirates, in particular from Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville, who has frequently questioned the club’s inaction over replacing former midfield stalwart Patrick Vieira adequately.
Speaking in defence of his midfielder, Wenger said: “I think we have had that debate for a long time now – ‘Arsenal does not buy defensive players’ – but Coquelin has the best defensive statistics and numbers in Europe.
“Defensively, Coquelin is doing a great job. Since January, we have conceded fewer goals than anybody else.
While Wenger is correct in his assertion over Arsenal’s defensive record – they have conceded fewer goals (16) than any other side since January – his claims over Coquelin seem wide of the mark.
Even only this season, Coquelin ranks 15th overall in the Premier League for tackles made (3.7 per game) and 32nd for interceptions (2.7), with the likes of Etienne Capoue, Andy King and Yohan Cabaye outperforming him in said areas.
Wenger also delved further into his argument against football punditry overall, this coming after comments made earlier on Friday criticising the current standard.
“Look, I am not against opinion, people can say they don’t think Arsenal is good enough, I accept that. But it is dangerous to say that ‘he will never be a player,’ especially when the comment has come from people in football.”
“I mean in general, It is not just about talking. I accept you can be right and I can be wrong. But what you do not want is an opinion that comes out just because you feel like that.
“I watch sometimes, the guy doesn’t talk about the game, he tells you his life and what he thinks about football.
“The first mission is to educate people. That is fantastic because the [ex-professionals] can explain things that the guy who has not played at the top level can understand and to get people to really love the game.
“That for me is the first mission. Some do it very well but the other way don’t like so much. Sometimes I watch games and at the end I don’t know the players who have played on the pitch because the guys don’t comment on the game any more.”