Premier League Stats Watch: Is Per Mertesacker a Premier Passer?

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterNovember 21, 2012

Per Mertesacker joined Arsenal on transfer deadline day in 2011 as part of a mad rush by Arsene Wenger to increase the quality of his squad (via

Following an 8-2 battering at the hands of Manchester United at Old Trafford and several subsequent departures, it was clear that the Gunners needed defensive reinforcements.

The German international, in addition to Andre Santos and Park Chu-Young, set sail for the Emirates just in time to pick up the pieces, but it's fair to that despite a tough start in North London, Mertesacker is finally showing his true self to the Gunners' faithful. In this article from The Mirror, Mertesacker shared his experiences on adapting to life in the Premier League:

I had a very difficult first season with all the settling in and the new things at Arsenal, it was quite tough for me but now I feel much more comfortable with the situation, with the season, with opponents, with our team as well, with the game we play.

It’s much more physical than the Bundesliga so you have to make your mind up about the tackles, about the way you cover your partner. So I set those things up a bit, and I feel much better than last season.

The statistics suggest the giant central defender is telling the truth—he's more than adapted himself to English football, he's excelling in it.

A string of impressive early season performances have seen the former Werder Bremen player leapfrog Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny as the de facto No. 1 central defender on the roster, and his overall play is improving by the game.

Mertesacker is no elite ball-winner. He's too spindly to tear around the pitch looking to mug forwards and make them look silly. He defends with his positional sense—which is very good for the most part—and doesn't need to make five tackles per game.

What's really impressive is his passing ability. Wenger's fluid system requires ball-happy centre-halves to function properly, and the 85-cap man mountain has made huge strides in this area.

Is he fast-becoming one of the premier ball-playing centre-backs in world football? On previous evidence you'd think that suggestion is ludicrous, but a closer look at the statistics and some remarkable truths are revealed.

*league only Average passes (pg) Pass completion (%)
Angelo Ogbonna 49.9 94
Per Mertesacker 60.1 92.9
Mats Hummels 54.8 84.2
Gerard Pique 56 88.1
Rio Ferdinand 50 92.5
Thiago Silva 56.5 91.4


Comparing "die Abwehrlatte" to some of Europe's elite ball-playing centre-backs shows the German can be considered one of the best at playing out from the back at this moment in time.

He's averaging more passes per game than all of these household names, and holds the second-best completion percentage.

Take the North London derby as an example. Not only did he score, but he positively outshone teammate Vermaelen in every aspect of the game. It seems he may have even replaced the Belgian as the playmaker on the back line.

Mertesacker has done the previously unthinkable—he's performed so efficiently that should Koscielny come into the team when Kieran Gibbs is fit, it would be at Vermaelen's expense, not his.

He's shrugged off any queries as to why he's attained so many international caps for Germany by transferring his form for Die Mannschaft into his performances in a red and white shirt.


Statistics via WhoScored? and FourFourTwo StatsZone


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