Arsenal: Arsene Wenger Has Created the Perfect Loan Relationship with FC Lorient

Matthew Snyder@schnides14Analyst IIIMay 22, 2012

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - MAY 13:  13:  Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal at The Hawthorns on May 13, 2012 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Last season, it was Francis Coquelin and Gilles Sunu, this season it was Joel Campbell, the 19-year-old Costa Rican-attacking-wunderkind.

Each of those players is/was considered one of the bright young talents in the Arsenal youth network. And each enjoyed a prosperous loan deal with Ligue 1 side FC Lorient.

Coquelin and Campbell rejoined the Arsenal setup after the end of their deals, while Sunu bade farewell to the Gunners when he made his then-temporary move permanent last August.

But a trend has been established.

Christian Gourcuff's (father of French international Yoann) philosophy of play has obviously caught the eye of Arsene Wenger, and after the success of three of his players within Gourcuff's system, the Arsenal boss has made it a habit of sending some of his choicest youngsters to the Frenchman, knowing he will aid their development.

The logic follows. Whereas loan deals often serve as a year-long departure from Arsenal's playing style, at Lorient, youngsters continue to mature in a culture that fosters like ideals to the principles they honed in London Colney.

While the just-finished 2011-12 season (Ligue 1 called it wraps last Sunday) was a departure from the philosophy—Lorient finished a disappointing 17th—one above the drop zone, while struggling to play their blend of attractive football in the heat of a relegation battle, they ended 2010-11 in 11th place and 2009-10 in seventh. They are no slouches in the French game.

Gourcuff, father.
Gourcuff, father.

Gourcuff's sides are hailed throughout L'Hexagon for their commitment toward a brand of positive attacking play steeped in technical quality and slick passing.

Remind you of a certain team that calls north London home?

Other teams have enjoyed frequent opportunities to use Arsenal players in recent seasons—Owen Coyle at Bolton benefited from the loans of Jack Wilshere in 2009-10 and Ryo Miyaichi in the just-finished campaign—but no club so closely resembles Arsenal's playing style as Lorient.

Thus, the link between the two clubs has inevitably strengthened in force.

Since signing Laurent Koscielny from Les Merlus in July 2010, the loan gates, as it were, have opened up. Coquelin, Sunu and Campbell are testament enough to that.

But Gourcuff has always moved quickly to dismiss that there is a special line between the Stade du Moustoir and the Emirates, other than the fact that both exhibit a novel sheen, whether by way of recent renovations (le Moustoir) or recent openings (the Emirates).

"There is no formal understanding," Gourcuff told France Football in September of last year. "I don't think our chairman knows the London officials very well, he just does business with them.

"Personally, I have no privileged relationship with Arsene Wenger. At one point we didn't speak on the phone for a whole year.

"However, obviously we share the same footballing philosophy and that helps to bring you closer."

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04:  Francis Coquelin of Arsenal in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers at Emirates Stadium on February 4, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Gourcuff even said that Carlos Vela came close to joining Lorient on loan this season before heading to Real Sociedad of La Liga—a move instigated by the Mexican forward's desire to play for a Spanish-speaking club.

The link between Lorient and Arsenal, therefore, is one borne strictly of those similar footballing ideals Gourcuff spoke about.

His approach to the game can be a near-perfect reflection of his compatriot Wenger's, and it is a testament to the system he has set in place in Brittany that Coquelin in particular was able to insert himself so seamlessly into the first-team set up at Lorient, and then Arsenal this season.

Gourcuff had raved about Coquelin, who quickly became a first-choice starter during the French midfielder's loan spell last season.

"I really believe that [Coquelin's] loan here will be great for Francis, for us and for Arsenal," Gourcuff said back in February 2011. "If Arsene Wenger loaned him here at Lorient, it’s because he knew that Francis would be in the same set up than at Arsenal."

Campbell built upon Coquelin's success—the teenager made 25 league appearances and scored four goals while making such an impression upon Gourcuff that the manager voiced his desire to sign him on a permanent basis—and it seems highly likely that we will see another Arsenal youngster head across La Manche for a spell on France's beautiful, but windy, northwest coast in 2012-13.

The only question is "Who"?


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