Arsene Wenger has admitted that the emergence of Francis Coquelin as an Arsenal regular, after being on the brink of an exit from the club, has surprised everyone.
The French midfielder, who has been with the Gunners since 2008, had failed to establish himself in the first-team under Arsene Wenger, but instead of selling him the manager chose to send the player on-loan.
Coquelin has spent two seasons away from the club in Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga, and would have left this summer had it not been for the injuries suffered by regular starters Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere.
The Gunners boss has revealed that the midfielder was not in his plans during pre-season and with the player's contract coming to an end in the summer, he was allowed to go on-loan to Charlton. But was recalled due to injuries to Arteta and Ramsey. Following his arrival, he made two substitute appearances before being handed a start in the Arsenal first-team for the first time in 23 months.
Coquelin has gone on to make the holding midfield role his own, following some impressive performances in recent months, especially his man of the match performance against champions Manchester City.
The midfielder has since extended his contract with the Gunners and will remain with the club for the foreseeable future.
Wenger is pleased to see the midfielder step up and grab the opportunity with both hands and he believes that the player is enjoying his second chance to prove himself and feels that Coquelin can make the holding role his own due to his commitment and desire to win.
"We had a chat in mid-season and I decided if he doesn't play at Christmas at all, and there's only six months of his contract to go, I would let him go somewhere else. He was not in my plans in pre-season. It is a surprise to everybody," Wenger said, as quoted by the Mirror.
"The only thing I do is that I never say never to anybody. In my job you have to be open-minded. You have to make decisions. But never close the door completely to anybody."
"He wants to play because he knows it's an opportunity for him. The human being is a strange animal. Sometimes when you wait for such a long time to get your chance and you get it, the more you enjoy it," the 65-year-old manager explained.
"He wasn't happy when I called him back. He played at Charlton and he thought I just called him back as cover. On that front, I think he has gone through a lot of doubt and has questioned himself, being many times discouraged that he doesn't get a chance. Now that he has a chance he doesn't want to let it slip away."
"He is a winner and he wants to win - that's why he is so committed," the Gunners boss added.
However, despite his impressive performances of Coquelin and Wenger agreeing that he could be the future, the Frenchman has refused to rule out the possibility of the club signing an established holding midfielder during the summer transfer window.
The north London club have been linked to a few players in recent months, with Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin's name being the most frequently mentioned with regards to a move to the Emirates Stadium in the summer.
"I will wait until the end of the season to see how well things go and where we are. I think he can do that (defensive midfielder role). He does the job well," Wenger concluded.