Let me start by saying that Mertesacker has been a solid player for the club, and he manages to organize things very well at the back more often than not. Apart from the positives he offers the side, it’s very well known that the former German international is easily one of the slowest in the squad, which is a huge problem at times. His lack of pace was evident as he chased down Diego Costa, slid to make a tackle, and although only slightly caught the cheating scum, we can’t argue the fact that Clattenburg made the right decision.
In real-time, I thought Koscielny was close enough to warrant a yellow card, but after watching the replay, the Frenchman was a solid 5-8 yards away. Costa was in on goal against Cech, leaving the match official with very little to do.
Playing 70+ minutes down a man against anyone is difficult, and although Chelsea are further down the table, they undoubtedly have the talent to pose a problem for anyone in the league. Outnumbered, I still think Arsenal was the better side in the match, which says a lot about the squad’s character.
Now that Mertesacker is going to miss two matches due to his sending off, we’ll get to see Koscielny and Gabriel lineup side by side. In all honesty, I personally think they would be our best defensive partnership, with Bellerin and Monreal out wide.
Both Gabriel and Koscielny have the pace to keep up with most, they are physical on and off the ball, comfertable with the ball at their feet, and they are strong in aerial challenges. In comparison to Mertesacker, the German looks like someone passed him a grenade at times as he struggles to get it out of his feet, and when it comes to winning an aerial dual, even though he’s one of if not the tallest in the squad, it looks as if he has a bag of bricks tied to his waist when he tries to jump. Gabriel and Koscielny don’t have that problem.
If you have a look at the replay from Sunday’s sending off, from the moment Willian picked up the ball deep in the Chelsea half, Mertesacker failed miserably at getting in position. It was more than obvious that Willian was looking to get Costa in behind the sluggish German who was struggling to figure out where he should stand, eventually forcing him to make a lunging tackle. If you watch that play from start to finish, he went forward, backward, sideways, yet he never managed to get behind Costa. Seeing how that all played out, I think it’s safe to say that Arsenal has been fortunate that the German hasn’t been that exposed regularly.
Looking at some stats, with 18 appearances in the Premier League this season, with Mertesacker on the pitch, Arsenal is averaging one goal against. They’ve conceded 19 goals in matches that he’s taken part in, but one of those was this weekend’s goal, for which he was no longer on the field for. On the other hand, Gabriel has featured nine times in the Premier League this season, conceding three times while on the pitch, putting the squad at an average of 0.33 goals against with him. Along with a better goals against average, the Brazilian has taken part in five cleansheets from his nine appearances, while in double the appearances, Mertesacker has been part of seven.
When it comes to results, with Mertesacker in the squad, Arsenal have managed 34 of a potential 51 points (66.6%). That number does not include Sunday’s match seeing as he was not on the pitch for the goal, so I won’t even bother to factor that in. With Gabriel, the Gunners have earned 17 of 24 points (70.83%), and that does not include the first match against Chelsea when he was sent off prior to the Mourinho’s group of scum scoring two goals. Arsenal have lost two matches that Gabriel has taken part in, and both were against Chelsea, which is a painful stat to talk about.
I was certain that when the former Villareal defender arrived at the Emirates, within a matter of time, he would takeover the starting role alongside Koscielny, but that hasn’t happened just yet. I’m really hopeful that this will open Arsene Wenger’s eyes to the liability Mertesacker is at the back if properly exposed. There may be some contributing factors for Mertesacker being the starter, with one of those being that he’s the team captain, but at some point, although he may have the experience and maybe the leadership, you need to put your best available squad out there. I personally think Gabriel brings more to the table at the end of the day than the German does, and this is his chance to really step up and prove it to Wenger and anyone else who may doubt him.