By Arsenal correspondent Tony Hughes
Francis Coquelin would be the ideal partner for Patrick Vieira in central midfield, according to Roberto Pires.
The Arsenal legend rates the current Gunners midfielder more highly than three of the powerhouses of the Arsene Wenger era, playmaker Cesc Fabregas, Invincible Gilberto and Emmanuel Petit, bedrock of the 1998 double winners.
Asked to name his best-ever Arsenak X1, Pires named mostly the usual and expected suspects but finds space for Coquelin ahead of more illustrious names such in his position.
The former Arsenal winger, who played alongside Fabregas, Gilberto and Petit for either club or country, believes Coquelin would be a better partner than the famed trio for Vieira.
“I love this guy because he has very good spirit and he loves fighting,” explained Pires. “He’s French but he has an English mentality, and in this position you need that.
“In my time we had Ray Parlour, and Coquelin is the same. He’s a very good balance between defence and attack. He is important for the team.
“Imagine for 10 seconds Vieira and Coquelin together in midfield, in this moment or 10 years ago. That would be fantastic.”
Three other current Arsenal players get the nod from Pires, who is a club ambassador and trains at the Gunners’ London Colney headquarters.
They are Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and, intriguingly, Laurent Koscielny, selected ahead of the likes of Pires’ former team-mates, Sol Campbell and Martin Keown.
Pires’ best-ever Arsenal X1: Seaman; Lauren, Adams, Koscielny, Cole; Vieira, Coquelin; Sanchez, Bergkamp, Cazorla; Henry.