Francis Coquelin better appreciated if he cost Arsenal £40m - Arsene Wenger
Manager Arsene Wenger believes if Francis Coquelin had cost £40 million in January rather than coming back from loan at Charlton, there would be little criticism of his squad's depth and that the 24-year-old would receive more praise.
Arsenal responded to last week's disappointing home defeat against Swansea to earn a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford on Sunday, keeping them two points ahead of Manchester United and they can secure third place by beating Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night.
Against the Red Devils, Wenger named an unchanged side for the sixth time in succession, which saw Coquelin retain his place as the Gunners' defensive midfield enforcer.
It is a role in which the 24-year-old Frenchman has excelled since returning from The Valley at the end of 2014, with Coquelin notably praised for his stand-out efforts in the victory at Manchester City.
Coquelin came through the Arsenal youth ranks after being spotted as a raw teenager at Stade Lavallois in 2008, with loan spells away in Lorient and Freiburg before a brief stint at the Addicks was cut short following injuries within the Gunners' squad.
Wenger feels had Coquelin, who recently agreed a contract extension, come with a hefty price tag, then his subsequent impressive performances would have not taken so many by surprise.
"The world has changed. The appreciation today of the quality of a player is just down with the money you spend," Wenger said."If we had bought Coquelin at Christmas for £40m, everyone would say 'What a signing.' I am sorry he didn't cost any money, he is still a good player.''
Wenger added: "What is a player worth today? Nobody knows really.
"I just wanted to say that if we had bought [Coquelin], nobody would complain that he was a good player.''
Wenger believes Coquelin has the needed quality to become an Arsenal regular next season.
"Nobody would dispute that his performances have been convincing and that he is ready for a fight even if somebody comes in," Wenger said.
"He has shown he has the capacity to play for us and play a big part in the success of the team.
"I extended his contract, that means I believe in him.''
Arsenal have been linked with the likes of unsettled Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling as well Manchester City midfielder James Milner and Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Wenger, however, insists his squad does not need a major summer overhaul, just some key additions.
"We have depth in the squad, and the rest will be decided in the summer. We need first to keep our players," he said.
"I respect everybody's opinion, but at the end of the day it's important we keep the core of the team together and if we can add we will add, but we work on it and the less we talk the better it is.''