Before the Man United game, most Arsenal fans were regretting that Laurent Koscielny was taken out injured and were worried that Per Mertesacker would have to partner Gabriel in defence, but they held firm against the so-called deadly Man United attack force, and along with Petr Cech (5 shots – 5 saves) stopped the Red Devils from making any sort of comeback.
Mertesacker himself was impressed with the partnership. “We had a good understanding [defensively],” he said on the Official Arsenal website. “I think a lot clicked today.
“If one of us won a duel, the other would be there and that was the same in the second half. If he [Anthony Martial] ran past one of us, which can happen, someone else would be there straight away.
“It went well from the start and that’s always crucial. When you take your chances and are strong defensively, that’s a clear indicator that you feel good.
“[Sunday] was just special and then it’s always difficult for your opponents to gain a foothold when they are so far behind after 15 minutes.”
“You could see how much the team wanted to respond [from Olympiacos]. As a team you try and remind yourself of what you can achieve and you could see that we have a lot of confidence.
“I hope that we can display that again in two weeks.”
When we brought Gabriel in last January, I am sure it was in response to Koscielny’s ongoing Achilles problems, so Wenger probably expected the Brazilian to be playing alongside Mert more often than the Boss anyway. Many fans and pundits said when Gabs arrived that he was very similar in style to Koscielny and would be the perfect backup. Despite BFG’s perceived slowness, he complemented Koscielny perfectly when they played together, so maybe it was obvious that playing with Gabriel would be a similar outcome.
So, the question is; When Koscielny returns, is Wenger more likely to drop Gabriel back to the bench rather than Mertesacker? Or, if the pairing that played against Man United was near perfect, will he leave the Boss on the bench until injuries or suspensions force his hand?