Connect in the back of the net

Arsenal’s current form is as erratic as it can get as they have won two, lost two and, drawn two in their last six competitive outings. Although they have lately been ineffective going forward, their defenders have been criticized more than the attacking players.

As the other three have achieved the hero status, Gabriel Paulista has been censured for Arsenal’s defensive frailties, and sometimes, rightly so.


Is Gabriel Paulista unjustly criticized?

The Arsenal faithful have now started nitpicking, no matter how good the Brazilian’s performance is. Against Crystal Palace, he produced one of his finest performances in an Arsenal shirt as he completed 98% of his 84 passes besides racking up four clearances and winning five aerial duels.

In addition, terrifically, he tackled and even saved the day for the Gunners with a successful tackle on Wilfried Zaha after his partner Laurent Koscielny had failed to clear the danger.

However, his reluctance to tackle Emmanuel Adebayor despite being in the perfect position to do so cost Arsenal the victory as the former Arsenal striker’s undisturbed 50-yard sprint set up the Yanick Bolasie equaliser.

In addition, his performance also highlighted his difficulty in reading games as he never intercepted the Palace attack even once though his partner did four times.


Whom should Arsene Wenger start alongside Laurent Koscielny?

With Arsenal’s chances of finishing above Tottenham now looking bleak, they are in dire need of consistent strong defensive displays. Although the Gabriel-Koscielny centreback partnership often produces brilliant performances such as the first half against Barcelona at Emirates Stadium, they have nightmares in the same frequency as evinced by the second half on the same night.

For every Everton game, the duo somehow produces miserable displays like the 3-3 draw with West Ham United.

Calum Chambers has been mooted as the right candidate to replace Gabriel in light of his fantastic showing against Leicester City in the 2-1 home victory. However, with bragging rights at stake, Arsene Wenger should opt for the tried and tested partnership rather than initiating a completely new experiment, especially because the chemistry between centrebacks is imperative to shut out the opposition’s attacking players.


Why does Per Mertesacker fit the bill?

Per Mertesacker has partnered the French international for a few seasons now, and the duo complement each other superbly as both boast have the ability to read the game like only a very few defenders can. Besides, he is doubtless a better leader than almost everyone in the current starting eleven is.

His absence has seen Arsenal struggle with crosses as evinced by the Hammers game. An unlikely hero in Andy Carroll capitalised on the Gunners’ lack of height and his outstanding heading abilities to put three past David Ospina.

One week later, Alan Pardew attempted to replicate Bilic’s tactics as he deployed the ginormous Connor Wickham upfront although the Eagles midfielders could not supply him ample crosses.

The German’s moment of madness cost his side three points against Chelsea at Emirates Stadium, but his absence seemingly has cost more, with Wenger’s men desperately lack the composure at the back.

With Salomon Rondon, an expert header of the ball, expected to spearhead the West Bromwich lineup on Thursday night, the Arsenal manager will likely hand him only his fourth start in 11 games, and he should rise to the occasion to help his side finish the season on a high note.


Written by Praveen Paramasivam

Follow Praveen on Twitter @49Praveen

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