I am a huge fan of Per Mertesacker. He lives football, always plays with passion and love for the shirt, is bright, leads on and off the pitch and reads the game so well. His shortcomings are well documented, but what I love about Per is that he made it to the top in spite of these. He focused on his qualities rather than his lack of pace and ability to turn around his own axis quickly, and by doing so he became world champion.
We get best value out of the BFG when we play deep and compact. In those games the German is pretty much unbeatable with great anticipation of what is to happen next and accurate and decisive interceptions. By playing fast and furious ankle biters around him, Arsene has been able to negate Per’s shortcomings to a large extent, and especially Koz, Bellerin and Coquelin have been a great support for him.
When we push up we are vulnerable to counter attacks, especially when we involve our FBs and central midfielders. Per is not one for running back and making a last ditch sliding tackle to save us from a deadly counterattack, and we witnessed another painful example of this on Sunday. Yet, these sort of situations do not happen often any more, and it is fair to say that the central midfielders did not protect the BFG on this occasion. I also remember Kompany of Citeh making exactly the same foul on Rooney a few seasons ago, which led to his sending off and a loss for the blue side of the rainy pooh hole that is Manchester.
I reckon Per’s qualities still far outweigh his lack of speed and agility, but that does not mean we should not look for an even better CB partner for Koz. Gabriel looks promising but mostly as a straight replacement for Koz. Can Koz become the new Mertesacker with Gabriel becoming the new Koz? The jury is still out on this, and both look more like Kolo Toure/Keown types than BFG/Sol/Adams types to me. I like to have a pit bull terrier and cool and decisive organiser in our CB pairing and I am not sure whether a Koz/Gabriel combo would offer this.
So who else offers cover for the BFG? You would say Chambers is the right type, but he is young and has a long way to go. And this makes me worry about our cover options in case of a serious injury to PM.
Love him or hate him, Per is a vital player in our team and finding good cover, and eventually a suitable replacement, is paramount. Who that should be is very hard to answer, but what do you think Fine Fellow Gooners?