Wenger explains why Arsenal MUST start BFG at Wembley!

It is now a generally accepted truth that the best defender in the Arsenal squad is the France international Laurent Koscielny. But for the last two seasons or so it has been the combination of the Frenchman’s abilities of aggression, pace and playing on the front foot alongside the calmness, aerial ability, and reading of the game that his usual partner at the heart of defence Per Mertesacker has, that has given Arsenal a much more solid platform at the back.

That pairing has come under pressure this season though, with our January signing from La Liga’s Villarreal continuing to look better and more at home every time he plays. No doubt the Brazil international Gabriel will be hoping to appear in the starting line up for the FA cup final on Saturday but those hopes were dealt a real blow by Arsene Wenger this week.

As reported by the Arsenal website, Wenger did not talk about his individual defenders or what his starting XI would be, but the Frenchman did point out what he thought would be one of the biggest threats to Arsenal retaining the famous trophy.

He said, “I think some of the bad fortune of Aston Villa this season was linked with the fact that Benteke was not there.

“When he came back into the team, he gave a lift to everybody and of course he has a fantastic leap, he’s an intelligent player as well and he can score goals with his feet. He’s fantastic in the air and can score headers against any team in the league.”

And who is the Gunner best suited to stop Benteke damaging us with his heading ability? That’s right and that is why the Big Flipping German will be one of the first names on the Arsenal team sheet on Saturday. But how long will Mertesacker’s place in the first team be safe with Gabriel pushing to start?

Tags Gabriel Koscielny Wenger


  1. Despite his height Mertesacker doesn’t win too many aerial duels. That being said he hasn’t been as bad recently as some are making him out to be, and given his experience probably does deserve the start. Gabriel still needs a bit or time to establish some cohesion with the defence around him, because whilst he has performed admirably as an individual in his limited game time, the defence does seem a bit all over the place in his presence. That will solve itself over time when he gets more game time with the rest of them. So yes, whilst I do fear the worst of over the top balls with Agbonlahor chasing Mertesacker down, I still would go for him.

    1. Mertesacker is the type that will win headers that go towards him, but if he has to move for it then he’s in trouble, but he’s very good at positioning himself so it’s not that big a deal, though when he does get caught out it seems to stick in my head for a while, like against Anderlecht… Players like Koscielny and Gabriel are a lot more mobile, they move and attack the ball when it’s played into their area. Koscielny isn’t great against big attackers though, it’s against the quick ones that he usually excels, loves putting Aguero in his pocket.

      But Giroud is by far our most dominant player in the air. I worry that if we don’t play him this weekend then we’re leaving ourselves vulnerable at set pieces, especially with Benteke to defend against. Remember early on in the season when we conceded seemingly every game from set pieces? No coincidence that it was whilst Giroud was out injured. He’s great at defending them, can’t remember him getting beat or losing his man once on a set piece. Plus he scores quite a few as well.

      Now if your sole reason for playing a striker is because they defend well, then you’re a bit foolish to say the least, but it has to be considered. I think Sherwood will have made Villa practice set pieces all week because he’ll think it’s their best shot at scoring.

      And on a side note, please please please teach Bellerin and Monreal how to block crosses, can’t afford to have them raining in like usual with Benteke about.

      1. monreal has got a lot better at blocking crosses, bellerin and gibbs still could improve quite a bit though

  2. merts is underrated i feel. him and kos together have a great partnership. of course if you take one out, then you get unbalance-> start of the season. thankfully we have gabriel now too 😀

  3. I would have started Gabriel but because its cup final I will start Mertesaker because of his experience.

  4. Mert may be a good reader of the game , no disrespect to him! but this fa cup final will need that extra pace at the back to keep benteke in check! Thats why i think the pairing of koscielny/ gabriel will give us that extra tightness at the back! Coyg!

    1. I still don’t know why people are so quick to just glibly assume that because you have pace as a CB then problem solved and you are good to go. If it was that simple we would have Bolt and Gatlin as our pairing. Merts and Kos have dealt with far trickier customers than Benteke. Cut off his supply and make their back 4 worry about our front 5.

  5. Wenger never really tells
    us any thing in an interview.
    Q. Will you play Mertesacker?
    W. We have three very good Centre backs and Per is one of them.
    Q. Will you play a high line?
    W A high line has its place in the game but requires quality execution.
    Q Who do you fear most in the Villa team.
    W Villa have many good players and we must watch them all.
    Q. Will you start Walcott.
    W. Walcott has just come back and is showing promise.
    Q. Is Theo going to sign a new contract.
    W. I always want Theo to sign and talks
    continue and I hope there will be a positive ending.
    Q. Will you start Szczesney or Ospina.
    W. Look I have to make many decisions before Saturday
    and the goal keeper is one of those decisions.
    Q 3rd place and and FA cup win would that be a satisfactory season.
    W. We want to win every game but that is not
    always possible but overall the team is improving.
    Q. Do you think you will ever win the Champions league.
    W. Champions league is a great challenge and we
    believe we will be in a strong position to challenge next season.
    Q Do you ever answer any questions directly?
    W. Look I always respond in a manner I believe is appropriate
    bearing in mind we have a large fan base world wide and of course taking into account that we are part of a huge organisation charged with the responsibilty to protect the Arsenal clubs legacy as an entity with a multitudinous array of faculties each with its own input requirements.

    1. The best managers tell the press nothing – and Wenger is one of the best in the business at that. Thats why they generally don’t like him. But lets face it – the media ask simply cretinous questions that no-one in their right mind is gonna answer.

  6. Just hope we rip Villa. Nothing against them but it’s about time we had a decent performance at Wembley. People talk of the Community Shield, and yes it was a good performance but it was hardly Man City’s A team and is a glorified friendly really. Nevertheless it’s silverware, and I’d love for us to get more this weekend, plus we’d get the chance to beat Jose at Wembley to retain the Community Shield in August.

  7. last season mert almost cost us the fa cup. he opted to fall and leave the ball for aluko which almost cost us the cup. he has to start coz we dont have better options.
    mert is very tall but he cant win a header when they tightly close to opposing striker and what i know is that benteke will try as much as possible to be at merts and u can see that benteke will be winning alot of headers.
    what benteke will do is just escape from koscielny and there u go.

    1. Mate, every televised game I can remember the “experts” run the bog-standard critique of PM “lack of pace” and how “striker x” will be licking his lips in anticipation of taking him on. You would think from the pre-match doomsday predictions that PM is exposed one on one with a striker through on goal about once every 3 minutes in every match. But it doesn’t happen.

Comments are closed

Top Blog Sponsors
JustArsenal Top Ten UK Blogs