Friday, 5 October 2012

Mertesacker v Koscielny v Vermaelen

This has been a debate that has seen many an Arsenal fan spend a vast amount of time talking about it. The fact is we are discussing this because it is still an area of improvement for us as it has been demonstrated in our last two fixtures. It's a formula that Wenger has been unable to crack as three doesn't go into two but I've decided to focus on each player and the resulting partnership.

Per Mertesacker
Seven interceptions at City
LFC Away.
The big German had his doubters from the get-go. Fans don't like different and Mertesacker's lack of pace was always going to be his achilles heal, the trouble is that when he was signed we wanted instant results and one false step can see 30,000 snap judgements formed and make it impossible to recover as far as The Emirates faithful are concerned. The truth regarding Per is he is a brilliant centre half. He's not world class due to the aforementioned lack of pace but his reading of the game is a joy to behold. He treats every attack like a puzzle and he often comes up with the answer. He made seven interceptions away  at City in the 1-1 draw (pictured left) and sometimes I think the interception stats can be misleading, as it can come as a result of risky defending but Per does it in a controlled manner. It's been a long while since we saw a centre half read play as well as him, probably the best since Adams retired in fairness. Per also realises this shortcomings in terms of pace as he accommodates for this with his superb positional play, as illustrated away to Liverpool. He may play deeper but we have a very pacey back line that can be called upon to assist if needed. I have always rated him and felt he gets a raw deal but his absence towards the end of last season and his form at the beginning of this term cannot be ignored, players deserved to be picked on merit not reputations or armbands.

Laurent Koscielny

If I'm a big fan of Mertesackers, then I'm a huge fan of Koscielny. He was easily our best defender last season. He has everything required to compete, he is quick, his strength has improved, he's disciplined and prepared to throw this body on the line to stop shots on goal. Sadly for Koscielny, he missed the beginning of the season due to an injury but he was thrust back into the limelight away to City. He looked like he'd never been away as he slotted in without problems at all. He should have defended better after he had equalised and he was lucky that Ageuro shot wide as he should have made it 2-1. The issue for LK6 is that he has been dreadful in our last two games. For the first time against Torres he was second best and by some distance too. He got nowhere near him for the first goal on Sunday and it took a while to fathom out how he had got in such an awkward position. He then survived a risky attempt to cut out a through ball to Torres. This led to Torres going clear through on goal and thankfully we got away with a desperate penalty appeal as the Spaniard fluffed his lines. Koscielny also had a part to play in the second goal, as he was one of the players that had a chance to cut out the ball but a desperate slide saw him unable to stop a weak free kick from nestling in the net. His performance on Wednesday was better but then in truth, it couldn't get any worse. He avoided what looked like a red card for a reckless challenge in the centre circle, admittedly I've only seen that incident live, so I could be wrong. He was also caught ball watching when the Machado fired over when it was easier to score. He never sensed the danger after both Chamberlain and Coquelin had allowed Machado to stroll past them and it we should have fallen behind. He didn't cover himself in much glory with their goal either, although Jenkinson and Vermaelen had stronger cases to answer. This means he leaves himself open to a place on the bench due to Mertesacker and Vermaelen having more factors in their favour.

Thomas Vermaelen

Just not tight enough as the Greeks level.
Well, where do we start with the skipper? He started the season well, appeared disciplined in his game, as he avoided countless forays forward and then Chelsea happened. He gave away each foul that led to the goals, desperate defending that momentarly allowed us to regroup only to concede as a result of his actions. The first was a desperate and unnecessary lunge on Hazard, who hardly needs an invitation to roll around on the ground. The second was due to another ramble forward, he wasn't set correctly upon trying to recover and he ended up bundling Torres to the deck. He seems to have channelled his inner Alex Song and it affects our shape and we lack a fluency when he crosses through other players areas and it all becomes rather disjointed. I hoped the armband would have curbed his play going forward but it hasn't made a difference. He doesn't seem to realise how this costs us and it's happened time and time again. I genuinely believe as a defender he is overrated and any deficiencies that he has is masked by his goalscoring abilities. Look at Wednesday night, we are 2-1 up in a game that we played poorly in throughout and Walcott gets to the byline, fizzes in a ball and the keeper claims it well. Who was flying in behind him? Vermaelen. Why? Who knows. It wasn't a calculated risk of any kind and we should be looking to see out a game not lose our heads in a moment of madness. We can't continue with him playing this recklessly, as we've seen our usual shambolic defending rear it's ugly head after what was a promising start.

The Partnership

So who is it going to be? Well surprisingly, for now at least, I'm going with Mertesacker and Vermaelen. The latter is saved by the fact that the early season form of this duo shows it can work. It will continue to do so if Vermaelen is responsible. I'm not sure if he knows he can't attack as freely when he's back in defence with Per around but he seems less inclined to maraud forward. Per is there because he's played well, there was no reason to drop him last week and if we are basing our pairings off the opposition striker then the manager lacks belief in his players. Bizarre that in enforced circumstances Per handled Ageuro and Tevez the week before and he was even given Man of the Match. Koscielny misses out because he's been the poorest centre back so far and of the three games he's played he's had one good game but for the future I'd rather have Koscielny and Mertesacker. I've always believed it's Mertesacker + 1 and that remains but whilst Vermaelen has the armband it's hard to see Wenger losing faith in his captain.

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