There is no question that Arsenal suffered in the early stages of last season due to the World Cup hangover being felt by the Germany internationals in the side. Even though our centre back Per Mertesacker retired from international football after the tournament in Brazil, he has since admitted that it took around six months to get his mental and physical state right again.
So with his central defensive partner Laurent Koscielny missing a large chunk of games with his achilles tendon injury problem, we needed the German to be at his best and he wasn´t, which is why Arsene Wenger used the January transfer window to strengthen his back line by signing Gabriel.
And perhaps it was that period up until the new year that the former England and Man United defender Paul Parker was thinking about when he laid into our Big Flaming German on his blog, as reported by Squawka.com. Parker is very disparaging about almost every aspect of Mertesacker´s game, also claiming that Arsenal will not be able to achieve our Premier League goal with the BFG in the starting line up.
He wrote, “I don’t think you can win the title if Per Mertesacker is in your starting XI. With or without the ball, he is a liability. Mertesacker isn’t comfortable on the ball and looks uneasy under pressure when he has to move it quickly.
“Defensively we’ve seen how many times people get in front of him at the near post; when he gets caught out he has no chance of recovery.
“You are asking a lot, for a team who wants to have a lot of possession, to have to rely on someone who doesn’t have a lot of pace. His positional sense is quite poor as well. He makes a few errors, he gives away a lot of penalties and gets booked for rash challenges.
“I’m not sure about Arsenal centrally at all but if you are going to replace one then it has to be Mertesacker. We don’t know enough about Gabriel just yet, so a new signing is essential if Arsenal are to address probably their biggest weakness. I wouldn’t like to pick a name out of the air – there’s a different one in the papers every day – and no one sticks out right now. But if you play at centre-half for Arsenal, you have to be good on the ball.”
A lot of us have moaned and groaned about the German in the past, but is this really fair from Parker? Not according to Squawka.com it isn´t, as the stats based website also argued that Mertesacker´s stats disprove this claim. His passing accuracy was the same as Koscielny´s and Cazorla´s and they were the best in the Arsenal squad. He made just two defensive errors and conceded just eight fouls all season.
So is it just his pace and what Mertesacker looks like when playing or do Arsenal need to replace him to win the title?