Arsenal legend Keown backs Paulista to replace Mertesacker (I don’t!)

The arrival of the Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista will be an immediate boost to the Arsenal team, as the players he could replace will all have to up their game – to try and hang on to their starting places. Wenger put them on the alert straight away when he suggested that Paulista could even be in the squad for the Aston Villa game on Sunday. Wenger said: ” The only difference is that Gabriel is available and we’ll check him how he is physically but he should be alright to be available.”

I seriously doubt that the Brazilian will actually play as he has been flying all over Europe this week, but just his presence on the bench should have an effect, and the Arsenal defensive legend Martin Keown believes that it is Per Mertesacker who should be the one looking over his shoulder. Keown said in the Mail when asked about the arrival of Paulista: “It’s an interesting signing because it’s an area that Wenger has wanted to strengthen. It’s a big amount of money and if you spend that much money you would expect him to be straight in the team.

“I think for Mertesacker there’s no room now for any indifferent performances, because he has had a few and still been in the team. In my day as soon as you had a bad game you were out because of the quality waiting in the wings.

“There’s been a few times this season when he hasn’t been dominant or mobile enough. Paulista may have to be patient but he is going to get a chance and if he gets a chance he will stay in. But the question marks are over Mertesacker rather than Koscielny.

“The German needs a dozen outstanding games to keep his place, but if he does, Arsenal will end up in the Champions League. And that’s the effect you want from any new signing. You want them to improve everybody’s performances.”

In my opinion, we all know that Mertesacker was not at his best after returning from the World Cup, but he has played in nearly every game for the Gunners this season, with ever-changing partners in the back four. I believe that the main reason Wenger brought in Gabriel was because of the ongoing concerns about Koscielny’s achilles injuries. I predict that the Frenchman will only be available for half of the rest of the games this season with Paulista partnering Mertesacker in the rest…

What do you think?

Tags Keown Mertesacker Paulista


  1. Mertesacker is like szezesny, he always looks like he’s going to do something crazy. Whenever he gets the ball he gets pressurized because players know he’s a weak link and it eventually gets played back to the keeper. I think the paulista koscielny partnership will be far superior

    1. It’s not that, I think Mertesacker is very composed on the ball, in fact a little to composed at times. Mertesacker has two main weaknesses. First his speed, he is probably the slowest player in the BPL and as we saw last season, if you look at those hidings we took from Chelsea, Liverpool and City, he was to blame for at least half of those goals because he was too slow to back track or keep up with quick attacking players. This is reason alone to bench him and give Gabe his spot.

      Secondly, you would think being 6.6 feet tall, he would dominate air space, especially against corner and free kicks and win almost every one on one air duel. But this is not the case and rarely do we see Mertesacker using his height efficiently to win crucial air balls.

      I’d like to also point out another two things. We conceded many goals whilst Kossie was injured. We saw how vulnerable we were at the back and it exposed Mertesacker incompetence. Also, there was a reason why Louw benched him in the WC finals and earlier.

      I honestly think Mertesacker needs to be benched and used as backup. In fact I would go as far as to sell him and bring in a younger, quicker CB who can actually win air balls and not fold over like a clothes horse.

      1. Just great, another article to get the BFG in the crosshairs. Why as Arsenal supporters are we just so keen to follow the media narrative like sheep, pick out a single player to demonise and continually be on their cases? I am guessing in this high-tech age with everyone seduced in to binary thinking, looking for the quick fix and instant gratification and with virtual football on tap, we just like all problems to be distilled down to a simple one-dimensional issue. Basically Mertesacker is slow, ergo Arsenal are s*te defensively. I have no problem if someone wants to slaughter one of our players if a) they don’t make it personal b) make use of and cite facts rather than trot out the mantras prevalent at the time and c) try to be logical with a little perspective and context.

        1) Firstly, Keown was a very good defender – but he might like to dwell for a second as to why he was regularly not the preferred choice to partner Adams (Wenger often electing to go with Bould or Campbell). Keown should understand the chemistry required for successful CB pairing more than most.

        2) Anyone remember Koscielny paired with Vermalaen? Anyone think there are similar considerations here before launching in to a Day 1 Kos/Gab axis?

        3) We need to drop this lack of speed tag. It is boring and distracting. World football has a rich history of pace-less players playing at the highest level in all positions on the pitch. If BFG is having foot races with forwards on a regular basis there is something very wrong somewhere else on the field. And despite the monotonous mentioning of this lack of pace you would expect the detractors to have a list as long as their arm of incidents where this “lack of pace” has been painfully on show and material errors made leading to goals. I am not suggesting examples can’t be found but they are a lot scarcer than you might be led to imagine and even so – every defender has a list of errors against their names; teams score goals and normally there is a defensive error/lapse in there somewhere.

        4) You say “we conceded many goals whilst Kossie was injured”. And we conceded 2 simple goals against a championship side the very first time the BFG leaves Kos to work it all out for himself. Kos is one of the best defenders this club has had but he has one huge weakness – he is no leader and very little by way of communication skills.

        5) You say “if you look at those hidings we took from Chelsea, Liverpool and City, he was to blame for at least half of those goals because he was too slow to back track or keep up with quick attacking players”. That is just not true, just made up on the spot to bolster your diatribe – do you really, honestly believe that those heavy defeats were primarily Mertesacker’s fault? Come on man – absolute rubbish. We could have had Baresi and Beckenbauer in there with Godzilla in a holding role in front of them that day and still would have been comfortably beaten.

        6) There is no correlation between height and heading ability. OK you have a natural advantage when everyone has their feet on the ground but heading is all about leaving the ground and more about timing, technique and strength – in fact big people, depending on body shape, mass etc will have more physiological obstacles to propelling upwards their bodies than more regular sized people. The best jumpers in the NBA are not the tallest players.

        BFG for the rest of the season to be reviewed in the summer.

        1. Good points Jonesie.
          Mert is a different player when playing with a decent DM playing in front of him. A lot of goals were conceded when we had teams running towards us with men too far upfield. He is the best organiser, and raw pace is not the only attribute a defence needs. What is good is that we have a good CB ready to come in if any injuries/loss of form, and competition is good for all including Mert.

          BTW does anyone else think that Paulista looks like Martin Keown’s love child?

        2. First of all, my comment about him being responsible for many of the goals we conceded last season against those 3 top teams is true, because I did an in depth article about it and reviewed the replays extensively for each of of those goals – I always back my claims up with stats or fact. I would never just thumb suck such a statement.

          Secondly, your last statement is just silly. Of course their is a correlation between height and jumping ability. Look at a player like Peter Crouch or Andy Carrol, always winning air balls, because of their height and his technique. BFG has the height, but poor technique. In all his years as a professional with all those caps, you would think the guy would be quite formidable in the air, yet we have ALL seen he is lacking in that department. Good headering ability should be a prerequisite for a CB, not a nicety.

          1. Apologies but I haven’t seen your in-depth analysis as to why 9 of the goals were entirely his fault. And whilst you may think my last statement “silly” I never said there is “correlation between height and jumping ability”. Read again, I said there is “no correlation between height and heading ability”. I’ll stick with that view thank you and note you go on to corroborate it in your own post with “BFG has the height, but poor technique” – precisely what I said, just because you are tall doesn’t mean you are, or should be good at heading.

            You say “of course their is a correlation between height and jumping ability” Really? Google the world standing vertical jump record – belongs to a geezer 5’10” tall. The ability to contest a ball in the air is related to anticipation, timing and vertical lift – being 6’6″ doesn’t afford you any natural advantage in any of these three things.

            Peter Crouch is actually rather poor in the air so don’t know why you wanted to use him as an example. Cannavaro was one of the best aerial CBs to have ever lived and was 5’9″. Probably the best header of the ball at the moment is Ronaldo a relative dwarf at 6’1″. In the PL Tim Cahill was phenomenal in the air at 5″9″.

            1. “Peter Crouch is actually rather poor in the air so don’t know why you wanted to use him as an example.”

              Well from that statement it is obvious you have no clue. A poll done in 2010 for the top 100 goal scorers in the BPL, Crouch had scored 47% of all his goals with his head. Comparing that to all the other strikers listed, he ranked the third top striker to score goals with headers.

              Like I said Jonesy, I always back up my statements with facts.

              “The ability to contest a ball in the air is related to anticipation, timing and vertical lift – being 6’6″ doesn’t afford you any natural advantage in any of these three things.”

              You have basically proven my point as to why Mertesacker is not good enough. If what you say is true, then Mertesacker is not only a giant, but still lacks ‘anticipation, timing and vertical lift’ – all the things you deem necessary to be good in the air. So tell me, what exactly IS Mertesackert good at then if he doesn’t have any of these attributes?

              1. Mate 47% of f-all is never gonna work as an impressive stat. As of 2010 Crouch had 55 PL goals in 6 years. So 26 headed goals in 6 years or 4.33 a year. Doesn’t shout awesome does it? Crouch can’t jump and has no heading technique. As a static 2 metre+ bean-pole under a near continuous bombardment of high balls he is always going to carry some threat. But good in the air? Give it a rest. Ask any Stoke, Pompey, Soton, Spuds fans they will tell you – he is sh**e in the air. Google “aerial ability” on-line and you find hundreds of articles NOT praising Crouch for his aerial ability. Giroud has 10 times the aerial ability of Crouch.

                Try this Guardian Sport Network piece on heading/aerial ability:

                “Type A – tall, but not good in the air or at jumping. Generally a static No9 who wins balls in the air but does relatively little with them. Still, by virtue of the fact they’ll probably win the majority of aerial challenges – often to knock the ball down rather than going for goal – they must be considered a threat”.

                They then gave examples of each type, for Type A they said:

                “A: Peter Crouch. The obvious choice”.

                To rewind to your original post you said: “Secondly, you would think being 6.6 feet tall, he would dominate air space, especially against corner and free kicks and win almost every one on one air duel. But this is not the case and rarely do we see Mertesacker using his height efficiently to win crucial air balls”.

                You are obviously big on “facts” so try the one that says Mertesacker has won more aerial duels per game this season than all the CBs in the 4 teams above us bar Cahill who averages about the same (just 0.05 more headers a game). Doesn’t quite square with your opinion does it?

  2. Its always good to see the fans, our club legends and team mates alike to warmly welcome and praise a recruit.

    BUT lets not heap too much pressure on the lad and expect him to be another Sanchez. Paulista needs time to learn the language, team philosophy, his team mates movement and the likes. Defense is a very critical position on the field, it all depends on timing, focus, FULLY understanding how your partners move, think and react (its no coincidence whenever Kos plays with Mert his a whole different player), Ferdinand with Vidic, Cahil with Terry, Pepe with Ramos and many other successful partnerships come to mind.

    For a forward player especially exceptional ones like Sanchez there given a little more freedom to play there own game and mistakes are acceptable while acclimatizing, though throw Paulista in a game and he makes a mistake which leads to us dropping points the pundits and the media will be on him and label him flop without as much as giving him time.

    Take your time to settle amigo and build the understanding with all our defenders and players and you could knock down a starting place that’s for sure. Having said all this, I pray you’ll be an instant hit.

      1. @muffdiver, cheers mate… Explosives will be unveiled after we whoop A.Villa. Av scheduled a good bottle and am anticipating some Romance after the victory in true 007 style. Anyone know where I can find a hot date and a good hotel? Anyone? Giroud huh?

    1. Let’s also, as fans of the club he plays for, get his name right. The name ‘Paulista’ is a term associated with coming from Sao Paulo.

      Gabriel Armando de Abreu. Simply known as Gabriel.

      1. Gabriel (and Alexis) it is then – I assume this South American convention extends to Chile and is the reason AS17 wants to be known as “Alexis” not “Sanchez”.

    2. I really thought his first press release interview was classy. I know players are compelled to trot out the same old platitudes again and again but to tell the world that the team needs to improve is very refreshing.

  3. Football is a game of tactics and strategy, you can’t expect using same strategy every game and win all the games. Same as players, no point playing fast defenders but you are facing an opponent who are tall and a threat on air. That’s where Per slots to the team

    1. All valid points in theory….but Per is awful in the air for his size. For a 6″6 defender with no athleticism, he should be stronger, more authoritative, rugged, and aerially dominant than he is.

      He’s an ok defender, pretty experienced and can plug a hole calmly when called upon here and there (German national team). But he gets found out as a starter, which is why i think, when Gabriel finds his feet, he’ll put Per on the bench and truly strengthen this team. We’ll have a player worthy of being a starter at Arsenal in the first 11, and a brilliant experienced option for here and there when needed.

  4. Mertesacker is a good defender. Not a GREAT defender. His passing is woeful, he has 0 pace, the turning circle of a battleship and he cannot cope if someone gets the run on him down a channel. I’m NOT saying Paulista should leapfrog him. I’m saying that Merts is not an automatic starter and Keown is right. His place WILL be up for contention and he needs to pull his finger out to keep it. Competition is good. I don’t see him being pushed out quite so easily though.

    1. @FFFanatic
      ”His passing is woeful, he has 0 pace”….that is not correct he his pace is more than tta of a tortoise lol and in addition to that he turn like a truck at times….

    2. The BFG reached his potential at 19.He has no more to offer than what he has now.He has to be the slowest most awkward player ever to play for Arsenal, and 99 percent of Arsenal fans know this. Everybody is slanging Flamani but most would prefer him to Mertisaker Wenger is right in adding a far more versitile player,can’t wait to see the difference. CB

  5. General paulist this are the names of the strikers i want you to break their feets.
    Diego costa 18 months injury.
    Rvp 2years injury.
    Aguero 10 months injury.
    Sterling 8 months injury.
    Rooney 11 months injury.
    But leave balotelli alone he is a Lady.

    1. I know you must be hating those guys (even I do), but you’re sounding like a Stoke fan and sounding a bit like that idiot pundit Neville about Rosicky. Pray for bad form or something like that, but not such long injuries. What would we do If some fans tells to break Sanchez’s legs?

  6. I’m with Martin and FFFanatic. Mertesacker can be a liability, but usually stays under the radar until we are up against pressure and pace. Listen you Mertesuckers out there, if you can’t take notice of one of our greats then thumb away.

  7. Mertesacker is such a piece of garbage, this German pussy’s 200% is basically not Arsenal material if we are serious about winning the league, which won’t happen this year thanks to him and Flamini.

  8. I think it should be more of a rotation policy according to who we are playing, rather than a situation where Gabriel takes Mert’s place indefinitely… I would like to see Mert starting against teams like West Ham and Stoke Rugby Club, where their main threat is getting the ball into the box, looking for the aerial threat.

    I would like to see Gabriel playing against teams like Villa and Southampton, who look for fast counter attacks… Gabriel will be key in these games, where he can keep up with the pace… We all saw how he man-handled Ronaldo…

    This way, we can keep players content, knowing that all the changes are purely tactical.

    1. I think only Sanchez is top top class.
      Half the team is injury prone.
      Not one of our defenders is top class.
      Gabriel is not top class.
      We have not won the Premiership for
      ten years and have morphed into
      4th place Champions. Is this it?

  9. Merts is terrible guys,we’ve accepted him because we have no choice. He’s definitely not a starter. I’m not too sure if he’d make a good squad player as well.

    I mean for squad players you’d play them in games where you want to change tactics so we can overcome our opponents.

    e.g if you playing a team like Stoke, you want tall strong players to win aerial duals
    If you play a team like Liverpool, you want fast mobile defenders to keep up and track all the runs made.

    Mertz is terrible at winning aerial balls and keeping up with players. Hence I don’t think he’s good enough for arsenal.

    Not to mention that he’s not intelligent, I remember him committing to a tackle on the half way seriously

    I would invest in a young classy defender in the summer.

    1. 1. Koscielny and Mertsacker were the top CB pairing in the PL last season
      2. Mertsacker has been consistently capped by Germany
      3. Mertsacker was part of the World Cup winning squad.

      That doesn’t make him good, but he is FAR from terrible.

      Calling him terrible is going too far.

      1. Mertesacker was benched in the final and he wasn’t injured. Think about that for a moment. Louw could not afford such a slow defender up against the likes of Messi, Aguero, Di Maria etc. If you watch the semi-final over, you will see how Mertesacker almost cost them a goal because of his slow speed and this is why he never played in the final.

  10. Fred you won’t change anyone’s mind with common sense. I disagree though; what you say may not make him brilliant or stand out but it certainly makes him at least “good”. First choice CB for any German national team for 11 years says plenty. Even the worse German teams of the past 40 years have been as good as if not better than England.

  11. Pers best ability, is as the un-official captain. Leading the team mentally- we need someone to step up with that when he’s not on the pitch-

    Who’s up to it?

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