30-years old is not very old for a modern professional footballer and as it is usually the central defenders whose careers last the longest, there is no reason why the Arsenal star Per Mertesacker cannot have many more seasons for the club. Well no reason due to his age at least.
His performances, however, are another matter. After seeing the giant German´s replacement yesterday, Gabriel Paulista, recover from an early error to put in a very assured and impressive defensive display and help Arsenal to keep a clean sheet and beat Everton, Martin Keown had some worrying words for our BFG.
The former Gunners great was clearly impressed by the January signing as a Daily Mail report explained. Keown thinks that Arsenal fans may be witnessing a shift in power in the squad, as long as Gabriel can continue to settle in and play well.
Keown pointed to the great pace that Gabriel has and obviously that compares favourably with Mertesacker´s lack of the same that has seen him caught out regularly in one-on-one situations. However, Keown is not blaming the World Cup winner for the calamity of the Monaco game last week, as he accepts that it was a poor all-round team display.
He said, “I don´t think you can point the finger at one player after the Monaco game. It’s a big chance for Gabriel now, though.
“I think it could be a defining moment in changing Arsenal’s back four now, for sure.
“Mertesacker, with the experience he has in the game, should have been calling these young players back the other night, the two full-backs were just drifting up the pitch and not coming back.
“When he’s been left isolated one-on-one he struggles due to his lack of pace too. Gabriel is keen to defend so he’ll be relishing this opportunity to stamp a claim for a first-team spot.”
And with a really big FA cup game with Man United fast approaching, I would expect Wenger to stick with the central defence that did well against Everton, at least for the trip to face QPR this week. The boss will want to give the new pairing as much chance as possible to get used to each other.
If they perform again at Loftus Road though, that will almost certainly see Mertesacker sitting on the bench at Old Trafford. Is that where he will spend most of the rest of his Arsenal career? Or is this just a blip for our big German, with him just needing a rest to recharge his batteries?
Per has started all but two Premier League games this season and only Alexis Sanchez has started more in all competitions. After an extended World Cup and the partying after, I could understand Mertesacker feeling a bit jaded. What do you think Gooners?