Gilberto Silva believes Francis Coquelin has belied his relative inexperience to emerge as a key player in Arsenal’s first team.
Coquelin, who is replicating the role Gilberto famously performed in Arsenal’s ‘invincibles’, was plucked from a loan spell at Charlton just over a year ago at a time when the Gunners were struggling with injuries.
The 24-year-old has since produced a number of exceptional performances in defensive midfield, and Gilberto expects the Frenchman to only improve.
“He is improving game by game and from last season to this one he is much better. He is getting to know his position well and that’s important because his role is to allow those up front to play while protecting the back four,” he told 888sport.com.
“He will be very important for Arsenal in the final third of the season. He is a young player and what he’s done for Arsenal in the short time he’s been playing has been great.
“When I was at Arsenal I was older, with more experience and big guys around me. He is proving himself over and over and I hope he is at Arsenal for a long period because for any team to have a player who is willing to do the hard job then it makes it harder for the opposition to pass through your defence.”
Coquelin is expected to return to the north Londoner’s starting XI when Arsenal host Premier League leaders Leicester City in a match which could have a huge impact on the destination of the title.
Arsenal are currently five points off the Foxes and can scarcely avoid dropping further behind their title rivals.
But Gilberto remains confident the Gunners can win their first title since the Brazilian was patrolling the midfield alongside Patrick Vieira.
“I think Arsenal can win the league but that depends how well they do in the crucial games. Leicester is one of them and from now on every point Arsenal drop will make Leicester believe more,” he added.
“Arsenal have not won the league in a long time but I believe they have a great chance this season. It’s important for Arsenal to have a very defensive mind considering what Leicester can do.
“They must mark well throughout the whole field from the guys up front to the midfield protecting the back four.
“They must close the space because we all know what a great job Vardy has done this season. That starts from the front and it is important to mark well as a team.”