On the 31st of August 2011, Arsenal fans were intruiged and excited by the signing of German international Per Mertesacker. Arsenal had been craving a commanding centre-half for about a year, and it seemed that Mertesacker’s presence would do a lot for the Gooners’ future.
Many, who hadn’t seen him play before, expected a different style of play from him. He found it hard to settle in to the Premier League, and had a very shaky first season. His doubters came serging in saying Wenger had messed up by signing an injury-hit, slow defender.
Many Gooners, including myself, kept faith in the big German. I for one could see his potential – He understood the game tremendously well, was a great tackler and his experienced would prove to help our back four a lot.
Times went on. Mertesacker was mistake-prone, after being at fault for John Terry’s goal against Arsenal, and Morisson’s for Norwich. Only disciplined, clever Gooners could see that he was sure to come good. After his shaky start, though, the 27-year-old started to play well and settle in, until he was injured against Sunderland.
This season, Arsenal fans panicked. The man in the centre of attention, as well as the back four, had to start Arsenal’s games, as their best defender from the previous season, Laurent Koscielny, was ruled out with injury. He proved critics wrong, being one of Arsenal’s most inspired defenders, and while Mertesacker picked up his form, Arsenal’s defense was vastly improved, keeping three clean-sheets from three.
Mertesacker shone amazingly yesterday, though, in an Arsenal 2-0 win at Anfield. Liverpool fans boasted, “Suárez is going to rip Mertesacker apart!” They said. As they hoped, the hated Uruguayan striker targetted Mertesacker, and throughout the 90 minutes, tried all his famous tricks on him. None of which came off. Mertesacker played like a central defender who knew the Premier League better than the back of his hand! Positionally sound, tackling well, handling the most tricky striker in the Premier League astonishingly!
Arséne Wenger now faces the hard, but lovely problem about who to play in centre-back. Koscielny, Arsenal’s best defender last season?! Captain Vermaelen?! Or in-form Per. From needing a centre-back badly, Arsenal now have three world-class centre-backs. A reliable source on Twitter says that Arsenal will rotate, like rivals Manchester United. I’m happy with that.
If one season is all it took for Mertesacker to settle in and turn good, imagine how good he’ll be as time goes on! He lacks confidence. Us fans (especially match-day regulars) need to get behind him to regain it for him. And yes, he lacks pace, and a lot of it. But with perfect positioning, pace isn’t as important as normal. Also, the pace of his centre-back partner, Koscielny or Vermaelen will make up- Both who are very quick and pacey.
Get behind this lad. Come on you Gunners.
Written by Deano Spyrou
Follow him on Twitter @DeanoAFC44
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