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Rating Arsenal’s Defenders Performances in the 2014/15 Season

Arsenal conceded 36 goals in the Premier League (almost a goal per game), four goals in five FA Cup games on the road to the final, nine goals in 10 Champions League games and two goals in the only Capital One Cup fixture they featured in. This ultimately means that the Gunners averaged conceding at least one goal a game in every competition they played this season.

Gooner Daily analyses the performances of the defenders in the course of the campaign.

Nacho Monreal (37 appearances, one goal, six yellow cards)

Monreal has been a transformed player this season. When he arrived in January 2013, it took him a while to get a hang of things before he acclimatized to the rigors of the Premier League. He joined as Kieran Gibbs deputy but injuries to Kieran Gibbs paved the way for the Spaniard to get an extended run of games. This season, Monreal deputized as a center back when the club was faced in a defensive crisis and he played admirably in Laurent Koscielny’s absence.

With Kieran Gibbs suffering more fitness troubles, Monreal marauded the left back position with such confidence and made the role his own, even after Gibbs returned to full fitness. To crown up his efforts in the campaign, he scored a goal in the victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford – a goal any striker would have been proud of.

Rating: 8/10

Mathieu Debuchy (14 appearances, one goal, three yellow cards, one red card)

There was so much speculation about the right back that was coming in to replace Bacary Sagna when he left the club to join Manchester City’s bench. Names like Serge Aurier and Seamus Coleman were mentioned but Arsene Wenger opted for Newcastle’s Matt Debuchy that looked to settle in Arsenal like water off a duck’s back.

However, Debuchy suffered two long-term injuries on his ankle and his shoulder that just reduced him to a merger 14 appearances in his debut season with the Gunners. He showed off his temperamental side when he was sent off in the Champions League playoffs against Galatasaray but he managed to score his first Arsenal goal with his head when he featured in an unorthodox center back position when the Gunners visited Anfield.

With the emergence of Hector Bellerin and Carl Jenkinson returning from loan, Debuchy has it all to do if he wants to retain his status at the club’s primary right back next season.

Rating: 6/10

Kieran Gibbs (31 appearances, one goal, three yellow cards)

At the start of this campaign, Gibbs changed his jersey number to 3, which was vacated due to Sagna’s departure for the petro-greens. Gibbs had featured a career-best 41 times in the previous campaign and the assumption was that his injury problems are now behind him. He featured consistently as the season progressed and even managed to get on the score sheet with a vital equalizer against Anderlecht when it seemed as the Gunners were resigned to a defeat.

However, injury struck again and Gibbs lost his place in the team to Monreal. With the Spaniard in good form, Wenger chose not to feature Gibbs but handed him a couple of starts in the Cup fixtures. With Monreal ending the campaign on a high, Gibbs will face a battle in his hands to win his place back in the team. He has already stated that he’s ready to fight for his place. Such competition will be beneficial to Arsenal.

Rating: 6/10

Per Mertesacker (44 appearances, one goal, no yellow card)

With Mikel Arteta consistently out of the team due to injuries, the BFG has led the Gunners in almost every game he played. After featuring a career-high 52 times last season, the BFG joined his German side to Brazil and won the World Cup, which essentially meant that he didn’t get any time to recharge his batteries with Germany going into the latter stages of the tournament.

This season, the BFG has seen his ardent fans swing to the other direction as he put up some questionable performances with the Round of 16 clash against Monaco being his nadir. Nonetheless, he was efficient as always in his many games and he looked more at home when he featured alongside Laurent Koscielny. Injuries to the French defender saw Mertesacker play alongside the likes of Monreal, Calum Chambers and even Debuchy, but he remained steadfast in his duties.

Now that he has retired from international football, let’s see if his career can be prolonged like John Terry.

Rating: 7/10

Gabriel Paulista (seven appearances, no goal, two yellow cards)

In my honest opinion, it was a travesty not replacing Thomas Vermaelen when he left for FC Barcelona in the summer. Arsenal was just an injury away from disaster in central defense and it happened when Koscielny was out injured. Wenger acknowledged that set back and signed a relatively unknown center back from Villarreal, Gabriel Paulista.

After making his debut for the club in the FA Cup fixture against Middlesbrough, Gabriel featured in his first Premier League game that will forever be remembered for that tackle on Romelu Lukaku. His presence allowed the boss to alternate between his first-choice central pairing as the Brazilian settled in to life in North London.

I’d expect him to feature in more games next season, as well as being a good backup in any injury crisis.

Rating: 7/10

Laurent Koscielny (36 appearances, three goals, four yellow cards)

Koscielny has grown from strength to strength in the heart of Arsenal’s defense, making him indispensable to the team. He scored the opening goal of Arsenal’s Premier League campaign against Crystal Palace and when he suffered an Achilles injury, his absence from the squad was hugely felt. He made his return after several weeks and Mertesacker played better when his rightful partner was available.

Koscielny went on to score against Stoke and Leicester to take his tally to three for the campaign but his all-action, high-octane yet efficient style of play was exemplary all season long.

Rating: 9/10

Calum Chambers (36 appearances, one goal, eight yellow cards, one red card)

For what its worth, this is the first time in Chambers career that he has played this much games. Arsenal’s injury woes allowed him to get a run of games as a center back and he was lauded for his mature performances. He continued that good form and even scored his first professional goal against Burnley.

With Nacho Monreal featuring in the middle alongside Mertesacker, Chambers was drafted to right back and he struggled terribly in the defeat to Swansea. With more off form performances in the coming weeks which included a red card in the defeat to Stoke, he lost his place to Hector Bellerin and spent a considerable chunk of the campaign on the bench.

It’s going to be interesting to see if he’d feature regularly next season when everyone’s fit.

Rating: 6/10

Hector Bellerin (27 appearances, two goals, seven yellow cards)

Like Francis Coquelin, Bellerin has been one of the finds of the season. Injuries to several players paved the way for the young Spaniard to get his debut in the Signal Iduna Park at Dortmund and as the weeks progressed, he made the right back position his own, shoving off the threat of Chambers.

Bellerin has his raw reserves of blistering pace as well as a keen eye for goal, and this season, he found the back of the net on two occasions against Aston Villa and Liverpool. With Jenkinson returning from West Ham and Debuchy on his way back to full fitness, the battle for the right back spot will be very intense but Bellerin must be commended for the great shift he put this season.

Sayonara.

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More Injury Problems and the Per-fect Vice-Captain

The international break comes hand in hand with paucity of Arsenal news but when you have FIFA 15 on your PS4, you really wouldn’t care. It just hurts to know that all my players from my FIFA 14 Ultimate Team (overall team rating: 88) vanished into thin air and I had to start from scratch in the new game. I pre-ordered the FIFA 15 and got the Ultimate Edition but I have to wait for 40 weeks to get all the 40 free packs that came with the game.

Enough about me and my FIFA 15 ramblings though. From an Arsenal perspective, it has been very disheartening to see another player ravaged by the injury beasts that hover around North London. The Gunners are already without Matt Debuchy (ankle), Olivier Giroud (foot), Serge Gnabry, Theo Walcott (both knee), Nacho Monreal (back), Yaya Sanogo (hamstring), Mikel Arteta (calf), Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) and Abou Diaby (hip) but when the German National Team’s official Twitter handle tweeted that Mesut Ozil was going to be out for 10 – 12 weeks, I was devastated.

Fine, the big-money signing hasn’t hit the heights expected of him this season and I’ve dropped my thoughts in that regard but when I was at work yesterday and a fellow Gooner was “happy” that Ozil was injured, I was bewildered and perplexed. This is one of the best players at the club that is just going through a phase and I felt that the next run of fixtures, as well as Theo Walcott returning to full fitness would have afforded him a chance to regain his form. Walcott’s return is key in the sense that his arrival would mean that he slots automatically into the right wing, while Alexis Sanchez plays on the left with Danny Welbeck spearheading the attack. This ultimately meant that Ozil was going to return to the middle of the park to play alongside Jack Wilshere or Santi Cazorla as the two central midfielders of the 4-1-4-1 setup.

I wish him a speedy recovery and I hope he comes back with a bang for all them haters.

To add to Arsenal’s woes, Laurent Koscielny was sent back to the club after the French FA reported that he’s suffering from chronic tendinitis of both Achilles tendons and when you think that Thomas Vermaelen was allowed to go through the exit door without a replacement defender coming the other way, you may want to tear some hair from your head in anguish. After doing so well to invest in the squad early on, Wenger had the chance to buy a center back and DM but he chose to fold his hands. If you also think of the fact that Calum Chambers has been suspended for the Hull game due to his Flaminization (*Check your dictionary – Flaminization simply means having an addiction for yellow cards), Arsenal’s back line against Hull would feature the likes of Isaac Hayden / Hector Bellerin / Francis Coquelin which wouldn’t be that bad, bearing in mind on how they fared against Southampton in the Capital One Cup last month.

Thankfully, Per Mertesacker decided to hang his boots for Germany following his World Cup triumph and he shared his thoughts on why he made that decision,

“I reflected and last season was very tough. This season won’t be less intense so I needed a chance to rest and refuel. I want to push forward with the club now to show I can still improve. I realised over the last few years that the club really needs me and that was a big motivation to win something with them and then with Germany. As vice-captain I feel more responsibility for my work here and I want to achieve more in my next three years with Arsenal.”

What’s not to love about Per Mertesacker? With Arteta aging / living on borrowed time and Arsenal’s usual tradition (in recent times) of handing the band to the successor following the exit of a captain, you’re looking at the next Arsenal captain and I’d be proud if such a man would be given the mantle of leading the club when the time comes. From his tales of having an Arsenal jersey when he was a boy to the way he made it clear at Werder Bremen that he wanted to join the Gunners in transfer deadline day, he arrived in the Premier League and gave a shaky defense a new lease of life.

Mertesacker is an exceptional footballer, a leader, and most importantly, a defensive colossus. His pairing with Koscielny has been heralded as the one of the best pairing in the League and with 16 clean sheets to their name last season, it’s not hard to see why. In the absences of Vermaelen and Arteta, Mertesacker also wore the captain’s armband and his performance against Dortmund (last season) in his native Germany was one of the best performances I’ve seen from a defender in a game. Mertesacker would have been a pantomime villain if the penalty he conceded against Wigan turned out to be the deciding factor of the game but he showed off great determination to be on the right end of the pitch to head the ball home, sending the game into extra time.

His decision to retire from Germany in service of Arsenal is high up there with these things I’ve seen a footballer do. And for his sake, I hope he remains injury free for the rest of the campaign.

I wonder if that’s too much to ask.

Sayonara.

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Rating Arsenal’s Defenders Performances in the 2013/14 Season

In the 2013/14 season, Arsenal’s defense was much-improved and this was due to the fact that Arsene Wenger got his first-choice pairing right and he stuck with them till injuries or suspension took its toll on the defensive rearguard. The center back pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were ever-present for the club, while club captain, Thomas Vermaelen, struggled with injuries, loss of form and lack of game time.

In the full back positions, Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna were automatic starters whenever they were fit while their deputies, Nacho Monreal and Carl Jenkinson, were restricted to a handful of appearances.

This is the second installment of a four-post series focused on Arsenal’s performances in the 2012/13 season. I’ve already shared my views on the performances of the goalkeepers but today’s post is focused on Arsenal’s defensive rearguard.

Feel free to share your comments.

Bacary Sagna – 48 Apps, One Goal, Three Assists

In recent times, Bacary Sagna has been marred by long-term injuries that has taken its toll on his career. Suffering two fractures on the same leg must have been a horrific experience but as we all know, football isn’t really a forgiving sport.

With Carl Jenkinson deputizing admirably in Sagna’s absence, many wondered if the Bac Man would replicate the form that won him a place in the 2008 PFA Team of the Year. At the start of the campaign, injuries to Vermaelen and Koscielny made Sagna start as a center back. Wenger gad featured him in that position at preseason so it was no surprise.

Sagna featured heavily for the Gunners and performed admirably in his defensive duties but in attack, he really failed to impress. The back passes were endless and there were times he looked clueless on what to do with the ball.

BacMan battling with Shrek

Then there was the niggling issue of his contract that was a thorn in Arsenal’s flesh throughout the season and finally, he jumped ship to Manchester City on a bumper deal that was too good for him to refuse. Nonetheless, it was a fair campaign by his standards and the fans are looking to the future.

Rating – 6/10

Kieran Gibbs – 41 Apps, One Goal, Two Assists

For the first time in Gibbs’ fledgling Arsenal career, he managed to amass his highest amount of games for the club. He even scored a lovely goal in the Champions League qualifier against Fenerbahce when he latched on to Theo Walcott’s cross to score Arsenal’s first goal of the qualifying campaign.

Unlike Sagna, Gibbs was very inventive when he was in the final third and his recovery levels were top-notch this season. However, it would be very hard to forget Andre Marriner’s moment of madness in Stamford Bridge when he brandished Gibbs a red card for a sin Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain committed.

It’s unfortunate to know that Gibbs’ good form for Arsenal wasn’t enough for him to be called up by Roy Hodgson and in fairness to the England manager, Leighton Baines and Luke Shaw deserved to be on the plane to Brazil.

Rating – 7/10

Carl Jenkinson – 22 Apps, One Goal, Two Assists

With Koscielny and Vermaelen injured, Sagna was drafted to the center back position, allowing Jenkinson to get a run-out in the first team. Even when Koscielny returned to the first team, Jenkinson retained his place but as the weeks progressed the young Englishman resumed his bench warming duties.

His most memorable moment in September was that brilliant assist he created for Aaron Ramsey against Sunderland and he will also be remembered for clearing the ball off the line when Jozy Altidore out-muscled Sagna and played the ball past Wojciech Szczesny. Jenkinson reached his low point this season when he inadvertently supplied a pass to Cesar Azpilicueta in the Capital One Cup

His second assist of the season was a lovely pin-point cross to the World’s Best Released Striker, Nicklas Bendtner, that headed the ball home against Hull and on the final matchday of the season, Jenkinson scored his first goal for the club. A personal high for the young Arsenal fan.

Rating – 6/10

Nacho Monreal – 36 Apps, No Goal, One Assist

In Monreal’s first full season at the club, he proved that he was nowhere near Gibbs with his performances. He managed to create a good assist for Santi Cazorla when the Gunners visited Villa Park but Monreal played like a liability in some games, with his poorest performance coming up against Manchester City at the Etihad.

However, Monreal would be remembered for scoring the winning penalty in the Capital One Cup third round clash against West Brom.

Rating – 5/10

Thomas Vermaelen – 21 Apps, No Goal, One Assist

How the mighty have fallen.

I can vividly remember when Vermaelen joined the club in 2009 and he slammed in six goals in his debut campaign, rising to an indispensable status. With Robin van Persie leaving the club, Vermaelen was handed the captain’s armband and it ensured that he was a regular starter for the club and after a series of below-par performances, Arsene Wenger paired Laurent Koscielny with Per Mertesacker and they never looked back ever since.

bench warmer of life

Last season, the good form of both players relegated the captain to the bench for extended periods and he also had some injury demons to contend with. It was a welcome sight seeing the captain lift the FA Cup but one must wonder if he’s ready to spend another campaign on the bench next season.

Rating – 5/10

Laurent Koscielny – 46 Apps, Three Goals

It wasn’t all peachy and creamy for Koscielny at the start of the season when he conceded a penalty and got sent off against Aston Villa. In the Champions League qualifier against Fenerbahce, Pierre Webo kicked his face leaving him concussed and he missed a couple of games to injury.

In his return, Koscielny and Mertesacker built on the telepathic understanding they had forged last season and the clean sheets started piling up for the Gunners, particularly at the Emirates. Koscielny also got in on the scoring act with goals against Sunderland and Newcastle but his most important goal was the equalizer for the Gunners in the FA Cup final.

It’s also heartwarming to know that he has signed a long term deal with the club.

Rating – 9/10

Per Mertesacker – 52 Apps, Three Goals

There was a reason Mertesacker played the most games for Arsenal this season. He is an exceptional footballer, a leader, and most importantly, a defensive colossus. His pairing with Koscielny has been heralded as the best pairing in the League and with 16 clean sheets to their name, it’s not hard to see why.

In the absences of Vermaelen and Arteta, Mertesacker also wore the captain’s armband and his performance against Dortmund in his native Germany was one of the best performances I’ve seen from a defender in a game. Mertesacker would have been a pantomime villain if the penalty he conceded against Wigan turned out to be the deciding factor of the game but he showed off great determination to be on the right end of the pitch to head the ball home, sending the game into extra time.

I can’t wait to see the BFG next season.

Rating – 9/10

So there you have it, the second of four posts focused on different playing positions in the team. My take on the midfield comes up next.

The voting sequence for the 2013/14 End of Season awards is still ongoing, so feel free to make your votes count in the polls.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal Duo Sign New Deals and Bendtner Confirms Departure

Despite all the doom and gloom that crept into the world of Arsenal after a disappointing loss to Stoke, some off the pitch proceedings have brought smiles back to the faces of Arsenal fans worldwide.

Unless you’re living under a rock with no access to Internet, colored TV or any social media platform, you must have heard that the Gunners have handed new long term contracts to two influential players, Tomas Rosicky and Per Mertesacker.

Shortly after both players put pen to paper, the club released this statement,

We are delighted that Mertesacker and Rosicky have committed their futures to the Club. They are players of exceptional quality and experience, and have consistently proven themselves at the highest level. There is a great feeling of togetherness and belief in the group and this news will only help to strengthen this further.”

With the way things are going with the Bacary Sagna contract situation, the Arsenal hierarchy were mindful of avoiding another scenario of that nature, so it was paramount that they secured the long term futures of valuable assets such as this pair.

Tomas Rosicky has been at Arsenal longer than I can remember. Arsenal was smart enough to sign him just before the 2006 FIFA World Cup and the Gunners licked their lips as they watched Little Mozart decimate defenses in the soccer fiesta with his sleek style of play, wonderful passing range and one hell of a thunderbolt from his right foot.

It didn’t take him long to announce himself to the Emirates faithful with a surface to goal missile against Hamburg SV. Rosicky rose to prominence in the 2007/08 season when he was part of that midfield quartet that almost won the Premier League. A nasty knee injury robbed Arsenal off his services for the best part of 18 months and on his return to full fitness, he suffered a couple of niggling injuries here and there.

With his advancing years, Rosicky had a renaissance in the 2011/12 season where he replaced an Aaron Ramsey struggling for form, fitness and confidence. Rosicky played a similar role last season and he has endeared himself to the fans in more ways than one.

I and many other Arsenal fans out there (especially Austin Onono) will be happy to know that Rosicky will continue to grace the Emirates for a couple of more years. Some may say he’s 33, I know he’s ageless.

Per Mertesacker on the hand arrived as a “panic buy” following the 8-2 capitulation in the hands of Manchester United. The Big Friendly Giant is ridiculed for his lack of pace and agility but he made up for it with his intelligence, height, composure, coordination and ability to read the game superbly.

Alongside Laurent Koscielny, both players have forged a strong understanding and their joint attributes have made them impregnable and indispensable, even to the extent where the club captain can’t even command a first team berth.

Rosicky, 33, and Mertesacker, 29, have donned the captain’s armband for their nations on several occasions and even at club level from time to time. Having these leaders on the pitch for a long time would have a positive influence on the team, especially their advancing ages.

I wish both players all the best in their future endeavors with the club.

While Rosicky and Mertesacker would be basking in the euphoria of extending their futures with the club, the same cannot be said for Nicklas Bendtner that has suddenly found himself out of favor again.

As expected, the outspoken Dane was quick to voice his concerns,

I’m not going to stay at Arsenal – first team football is what I’m after. 

The plan is for me to move on. I’m ready for a new challenge. I know of the conditions.

To keep my spot I need to play regularly. My self-esteem and my confidence as a footballer has not changed, but there are many who think all I do is party. 

That I am completely indifferent to football, and it’s the wrong version of reality.

When I find my right club, I am sure that everything will be all right in itself, if there are no more injuries.”

The tale between Bendtner and Arsenal took a twist when Arsene Wenger offered him a chance to return to the team after he had declared that he wasn’t going to play for the club. With his Samurai looks, ponytail and the awkward looking beards, the fans saw a player that looked like a ‘new signing’ and he did pretty well against West Bromwich in the Capital One Cup.

After a couple of substitute appearances, Bendtner had a rear start against Hull City and scored a neat header from a Carl Jenkinson cross. Bendtner won a place in the hearts of the fans when he scored that vital late goal against Cardiff but injury hampered his chances of getting a consistent run of games.

Since his return to full fitness, he has seen his Giroud deputy role occupied by Yahaya Sanogo and after seeing the young lad get a rear start ahead of him in the FA Cup clash with Liverpool, Bendtner’s fears of losing his place we’re realised when Sanogo was favored ahead of him in the vital clash against Bayern Munich.

With the Gunners trailing against Stoke, Wenger had already thrown Mesut Ozil and the Ox into the fray, so his last throw of the dice was either Sanogo or Bendtner, and we all know who he brought on.

As my buddie, Bhydemi Brainz stated,

“Why give confidence to a player who would probably  end up in another club this simmer when you can give confidence to someone who has a future with us?”

The nail has been driven into the coffin of Bendtner’s career with Arsenal and as a free agent, a player of his ‘talents’ would be used elsewhere. He’s a decent striker that could do well in another club that gives him regular game time but that club would not be Arsenal.

Sayonara 

The Curious Case of the Mertesacker – Koscielny Defensive Partnership

Solid as a rock: Per Mertesacker (right) and Laurent Koscielny (left) have not lost a league match for almost two years when they have both started and finished a game for title-challenging Arsenal

Rock solid!

As we head into game week 22 in the Premier League, the Gunners are still surpassing everybody’s expectations as they have shown resilience to remain at the top of the table, despite the fact that all teams in the top seven recorded victories over the weekend.

In the wake of the recent victory over Aston Villa, Arsenal’s captain of the night, Per Mertesacker, believes that his team change take any challenge,

“Nobody dropped any points so there was a bit of pressure. The team could feel that but we responded. I think everyone was expecting that we would drop points but we kept going.

“In the first half we did extremely well and put a lot of pressure on them. We took the lead by two goals and that was decisive.

“It was very important to respond and for the other teams to see that Arsenal is alive and that we can respond to anything. We just look at ourselves and think we are good enough to respond to any challenge they give us.

“It is really tight at the top. At the moment, there is no chance to drop any points. We have to show the other teams that when we feel the pressure we can respond. That is vital so I’m really happy with the fighting performance in the second half and how resilient we were.”

Despite the fact that Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud would take the plaudits for the goals they scored on the other hand, kudos must go to the unsung heroes, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny for the great jobs they are doing at the back. For those that don’t know, the Gunners have undefeated in every league match in which Koscielny and Mertesacker have completed 90 minutes, since a 2-1 home defeat against Manchester United on January 22, 2012. That period has included 28 games, 20 of which have resulted in victories.

Both players complement each other in a ‘stopper and cover’ type of defensive partnership and their understanding is telepathic to say the least. In the past, Arsenal has always had issues with their central defensive pairings but this is the foundation the Gunners could use to surge for the Premier League title this season.

The last time the Gunners had a rock solid defensive pairing after the Tony Adams – Steve Bould / Martin Keown era was the Sol Campbell – Kolo Toure defensive partnership that saw the Gunners go unbeaten in the entire 2003/04 Premier League campaign. As the years went by, players like Phillippe Senderos, William Gallas and the shambolic French combination of  Mikael Silvestre and Sebastien Squillaci graced the Emirates but they out up poor showings.

When Thomas Vermaelen arrived from Ajax in 2009, he seemed like the real deal with his aggressive style of defending that was reminiscent of the Nemanja Vidic of old, but when the responsibility of being Arsenal’s captain was bestowed on him, he started over complicating things, and it affected his form. Let’s not forget that his fitness has been a major concern as well since his lengthy Achilles tendon injury in his second season with the club.

Missing out: Arsenal's club captain Thomas Vermaelen has had to make do with a place on the bench

Despite his poor form last season, Vermaelen’s captaincy acted like a shield around him and he continued to make more glaring errors but after another putrid showing at White Hart Lane in March 2013, Arsene Wenger decided he had seen enough and he axed his captain and first-choice goalie for the good of the team. An injury to Lukasz Fabianski paved the way for Wojciech Szczesny to return to the team but the Mertesacker – Koscielny combo hasn’t looked back since that famous win at the Allianz Arena.

EPL central defensive partnerships and their records. (Culled from the Daily Mail)

Since both players featured consistently, Arsenal has conceded fewer goals and they currently have the best defensive record in the Premier League. The hallmark of their combination this season was showcased in the month of November, when the club conceded only one goal in seven matches.

Per Mertesacker uses his height to great effect and his experience has been key for the Gunners since his arrival as a “panic signing” from Werder Bremen in 2011. He made the most interceptions (57) last season at the club and it’s amazing to know that he only made one defensive error in his 3,028 minutes of playing time last season. Mertesacker’s weakness remains his pace, but he has made up for it with his ability to read the game and anticipate situations superbly.

Laurent Koscielny on the other hand is one of the quickest defenders you’d ever see and his recovery ability ranks him among the best in the Premier League. He’s also a very good tackler of the ball and his intelligence allows him to anticipate situations with consummate ease. He scores the odd own goal and makes some erratic decisions at times, more he has done more good than damage in his time at the club.

To wrap things up, here are the stats of both players in the Premier League this season, with some assistance from WhoScored,

 

 

Per Mertesacker

Laurent Koscielny

Appearances (subs)

19 (0)

18

Tackles made (per game)

28 (1.5)

32 (1.8)

Interceptions made (per game)

29 (1.5)

51 (2.8)

Fouls committed (per game)

5 (0.3)

16 (0.9)

Clearances (per game)

123 (6.5)

124 (6.9)

Blocked shots (per game)

3 (0.4)

14 (0.8)

Total Passes (accurate passes)

899 (832)

699 (647)

Pass Completion percentage

92.5%

92.6%

Bookings (Yellow/Red)

(1/0)

(0/1)

In 21 Premier League games played thus far, Koscielny and Mertesacker have been mainstays in the team. While Mertesacker averages at least 1.5 tackles per game, Koscielny closes in on at least two tackles and their clearances in every game is at least seven. Their passing stats are also very impressive as they are close to 93% accuracy.

It’s time to compare the Mertesacker – Koscielny combo with the leading Premier League defenders in other clubs, John Terry, Vincent Kompany, Phil Jagielka and Martin Skrtel.

Now it’s time to compare Mathieu Flamini’s stats (league only) with the rest of the holding midfielders Arsenal were linked with this summer.

 

Mertesacker

Koscielny

Kompany

Terry

Jagielka

Skrtel

Appearances (subs)

19

18

12 (2)

21

19

19

Tackles made (per game)

28 (1.5)

32 (1.8)

28 (2.3)

18 (0.9)

28(1.5)

21 (1.1)

Interceptions made (per game)

29 (1.5)

51 (2.8)

23 (1.9)

24 (1.1)

35 (1.8)

31 (1.6)

Fouls committed (per game)

5 (0.3)

16 (0.9)

8 (0.7)

8(0.4)

7 (0.4)

16 (0.8)

Clearances (per game)

123 (6.5)

124 (6.9)

77 (6.4)

148 (7)

174 (9.2)

201 (10.6)

Blocked shots (per game)

3 (0.4)

14 (0.8)

5 (0.4)

14 (0.7)

8 (0.4)

21 (1.1)

Total Passes (accurate passes)

899 (832)

699 (647)

469 (407)

1092 (975)

1020 (889)

850 (780)

Pass Completion percentage

92.5%

92.6%

86.8%

86.7%

87.2%

91.8%

Bookings (Yellow/Red)

(1/0)

(0/1)

(3/0)

(2/0)

(1/0)

These are leading defenders in their various Premier League sides and you can see the closeness in these stats. Koscielny remains the best tacklers (1.8) among the six and he has also made more interceptions than any other player on this list. However, he and Martin Skrtel commit more fouls than the defenders on this list.

Skrtel leads with clearances and is followed closely by Jagielka.

With Koscielny and Mertesacker, Gunners can rest assured that they have a solid base to work with, but we can only hope that they remain fit, because when one of the them is missing, the effects are usually disastrous. Arsenal’s loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford this season is a testament of that.

Sayonara.

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