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ESPN FC  By ESPN

Francis Coquelin has 'best defensive statistics' in Europe - Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger says the stats prove that Francis Coquelin has become one of his most important players after criticism from former Manchester United defender Gary Neville.

Neville, now a pundit with Sky Sports, accused Wenger of arrogance over his transfer market policy during the coverage of the 0-0 draw with Liverpool on Monday. He indirectly referenced players like Coquelin and said "they cannot win the league with them" as the Gunners lack power in their team.

But Wenger has leapt to the defence of Coquelin, who became a vital part of the Arsenal team in the second half of last season after returning from a loan spell at Championship club Charlton Athletic.

"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," Wenger said. "Defensively, Coquelin is doing a great job. Since January, we have conceded fewer goals than anybody else.

"You know, in football you have to accept that anybody can be right. The only thing I want is that when people have opinions, it is documented and worked out before. Especially when it is football specialists.

"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."

Wenger was concerned that pundits like Neville make such comments for headlines.

"I mean in general," he said. "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.

Francis Coquelin has made a place in the Arsenal midfield his own.

"I watch sometimes, the guy doesn't talk about the game, he tells you his life and what he thinks about football.

"What is a concern is that it puts pressure on players, I believe that we are in a football job. With people who have been in the game, I love that they go on television, but what I would like is for them to help people to love football even more.

"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."

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