William Gallas was a very capable successor, but the players around him have always lacked the quality needed to take the Gunner’s to the level needed to win tournaments.
It is a problem that Thomas Vermaelen has inherited. Since his arrival in 2009, the Belgian centre-back has established himself as one of the best players in Arsene Wenger’s squad. His absence last season due to injury however, highlighted the club’s over reliance on having one solid centre-back.
Per Mertesacker seems to be an ideal defence partner for Vermaelen. Unlike his new Belgian team mate, the German likes to sit back and play a very rigid role in the centre of defence. He is a tough, hard hitting, no nonsense centre-back. The very player Arsenal fans have been craving for several seasons.
Unfortunately, with Vermaelen out injured Mertesacker will be making his debut against Swansea as the leader of Arsenal’s defence.
It is a tough ask to expect a Premier League debutant to lead the defence, especially if you have just arrived at the club and still learning the first names of your fellow teammates.
This slideshow will assess several factors to determine how well equipped Per Mertesacker is to manage the Arsenal defence, void of the support Thomas Vermaelen could provide him.
The 26-year-old centre-back has amassed 76 caps for Germany and played in over 200 Bundesliga games.
Despite his remarkable tally, he is yet to win a major trophy. He is in many ways, a nearly man. He has come close to winning a major international tournament with Germany on four occasions and was a UEFA Cup runner-up in 2009.
He also has precious little experience playing in the Champion’s League, particularly in the knockout stages of the tournament.
That being said, he is a sold centre-back who knows his trade and sticks to it.
He is used to the demands of playing league football week in week out and despite the occasional injury scare, has been a permanent starter in the Bundesliga since 2005-2006.
Such experience towers over the other centre-backs Arsene Wenger has at his disposal, including Thomas Vermaelen.
Arsenal needs a central defender who is calm and composed. Mertesacker’s experience means that the German is precisely is.
Per Mertesacker is a tough, hard hitting centre-back.
At 6'6", he is a formidable force in the midst of the Arsenal defence. It is difficult to beat him in the air, and the physicality in his game means it will be difficult to go stand toe to toe with him and come out on top.
Despite his positive traits, he is unconvincing with ball at his feet and does suffer from a lack of pace. The Premier League’s physicality may suit Mertesacker’s game, but the speed in which football is played could exploit the biggest gap in his game.
With this in mind, there are far more positives than there are negatives.
He is capable of timing precision point tackles and more importantly, makes up for his lack of his with his special awareness.
Mertesacker is seldom caught out of position, which will make it difficult for teams to run at him and expose his lack of pace.
Thomas Vermaelen’s latest injury has ruled out for at least a month, but in that time, Arsenal can look forward to playing against a string of teams they should have no problem beating.
Mertesacker will make his debut for Swansea ahead of their midweek Champion’s League trip to Dortmund, the toughest of Arsenal’s games that Vermaelen will miss.
Following Borussia Dortmund Arsenal will square up against Blackburn, Shrewsbury Town, Bolton and Olympiakos. Between these four teams that only player that Mertesacker will have to do his homework on is Bolton’s Ivan Klasnic.
Provided Arsenal’s midfield can perform at the level required of a Premier League squad, Mertesacker could find himself with very little to do.
Arsenal may have to face the next month without vice-captain Thomas Vermaelen, Per Mertesacker is a proven leader on the pitch.
In most situations, it would be extraordinary to think of a new player assuming a leading role at a club. With the youth that Arsenal’s team is littered with, Mertesacker’s experience as club captain for Werder Bremen will be an invaluable asset to the Gunners.
He is vocal on the pitch and tends to lead by example. If the youngsters are feeling a little out of their comfort zone, Mertesacker should be able to lift them with his presence on the pitch.