Mikel Arteta believes Francis Coquelin has been the "nicest surprise of the season" as he has given Arsenal something it was missing before his return on loan from Charlton Athletic in December 2014.
The France midfielder was expected to back-up Mathieu Flamini and Arteta himself in the holding role but has eventually become a crucial player for manager Arsene Wenger during the Gunners' impressive second part of the campaign, giving balance to the team to help his side to finish third in the Premier League and reach the FA Cup final.
And speaking ahead of the game against Aston Villa today (30 May), Arteta has not hidden his admiration for the player, claiming he has proved to be the missing link at the Emirates Stadium.
"I think it has been probably the nicest surprise of the season. Because he had to come on loan and I think he was not really happy to do that, but he put a really good impact into it. The way he has adapted to the game and the way he gave something to the team that we were missing," Arteta said.
"He has been great, he is giving balance, he has competed as well as anybody else in the team. He is being very consistent. He will be here for a good few years. I always liked Francis and I like him a lot now."
Meanwhile, the Spanish midfielder has claimed the Gunners has developed much in the last year and believes the club is "financially" ready to improve even further ahead of the coming transfer window.
"I think the club is in a different position [from the last year's final]. We have qualified directly for the Champions League. You can sense a different atmosphere around the club. The ambitions are going to be different for next season. The base and the quality of the squad is better than we had last year. I think the club is in a very strong position to push because financially it is in a very good position as well," he said.
"So I think it is the right moment − we have all the elements to move forward and to be challenging. And I think we need to be demanding because we have the ability and what it takes to go ahead and set bigger targets."
Arteta says the players will try to fight for titles in the future but asked whether he expects the board help them with new additions in the summer, he said: "That's not for us.
"We want to push and win the Premier League, that's for sure, and it is up to the manager and the board to decide what is the missing ingredient for that, whether there is something we missed, whether it was because we didn't have the full squad ready for biggest part of the season, with a lot of players out, whether we are missing that final bit of quality to win or deepness in the squad. I don't know what it is, but it is up to them to analyse that. But everybody is up to it and I am sure they are as well."