Speed Vs Intelligence – the curious case of Mertesacker? by ED
Let me address the obvious elephant in the room, Per is slow.. and It is often debated as to whether this makes him a liability to the Arsenal team. I mean there are numerous times (and I am sure I’m not alone on this one) where there were clenched buttocks whenever Mertesacker was put in a one on one situation with numerous attacking forwards in the league, and logic would dictate that Per would lose those battles. Although people do highlight his experience of being in situations like that does make him a force to be reckoned with, his positioning (not to mention his long legs) so often has been an impressive factor in being able to neutralise threats.
I don’t mean to blow our own trumpets but the notion of an attacking fullback was an unheard of concept in the Premier league.. I mean defenders getting forward during open play and not set pieces, who would have ever imagined the likes of Nigel Winterburn and Stuart Pearce ‘breezing’ past players on the wings, overlapping midfielders and producing pint point and precise crossing to the strikers up front or even better yet taking on defenders and scoring … Doesn’t sound right to the ear, does it? Then along came Arsene who changed the ‘English game’ of lumping it up to the big man up front (aka route One football) he introduced arguably two of the best left backs ever to have played in the premier league Ashley Cole (The original Judas) and Gael Clichy. With defenders going forward there is always a risk of getting hit on the counter, often left exposed at the back, we have often been criticised for our ability to maintain discipline at the back and it has so often been because we’ve been out of shape leaving too many holes and so often leaving defenders in a position where they have to fend for themselves.
The question I pose to you all is with the likelihood that Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal may be our starting fullbacks for next season (Let’s be honest, they are fantastic fullbacks, in the modern sense that they get forward and do contribute to Arsenal’s attacking effort, but when it comes to defending there are a few concerns). Are we going to continue to rely on Per’s experience (which he has accumulated during his time at Arsenal and in the league), or is it time that we started considering other options – because he is limited by his ability, he’s not getting any faster any time soon… You couple that with the wealth of forwards the premier league is blessed with in general, you begin to realise how much of a problem that poses.