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Per Mertesacker Adds to Arsenal’s Injury Woes

There were pictures of the squad on a certain tarmac with some Fly Emirates staff but some certain sharp eyed fans like K_Sturna noticed that the club captain wasn’t on that photo. C’mon, a player of his stature is certainly not hard to find. Injuries and Arsenal are two things that have been synonymous in recent years, and it seems as if that trend is set to continue in the new campaign.

With Arsenal playing a MLS AllStar squad on Friday, it’s evident that the team would be desperately short in the back when Gabriel Paulista left back at London Colney because of tonsilitis problem that was reported earlier in the campaign. Things are looking really grim as it has been confirmed that imminent club captain, Per Mertesacker, has suffered a knee injury and he’s scheduled to miss up to five months.

With Laurent Koscielny still on his extended break following his Euro 2016 exertions, Arsenal is left with just Calum Chambers and new signing, Rob Holding, as the center backs available for selection. Nacho Monreal and Matt Debuchy have featured in makeshift center back roles, but with Sky Sports reporting that Bordeaux is bracing themselves to make an official bid for the French fullback, he’s more than likely to leave.

It’s important to see how Wenger and the Arsenal hierarchy respond to this predicament. Arsenal has been renowned to be a reactive side when it comes to some certain kinds of signings, but I have a hunch that Wenger would prefer to see Gabriel grow, than splurging in the transfer market for a new center back.

We will have to keep our fingers crossed though.


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Per Mertesacker Set to be the Next Arsenal Captain

Since I started supporting Arsenal in 1998, I’ve seen the club successfully transition the captain’s armband from one player to another. Captains like Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira lived, ate and breathed Arsenal, and you could see how much playing for the club meant to them. The mere fact that Adams has a statue of him tells the true story of how much the club adored him.

After the Adams / Vieira dynasty came the reign of the King himself, Thierry Henry. There is no better player that donned the famous Red and White like King Henry, but his leadership was questioned when he made the decision to leave the club at the time he was needed the most. Wenger swiftly made the decision to hand the armband over to Henry’s deputy, Gilberto Silva. The Brazilian featured consistently as the captain but he lost his place in the squad to Mathieu Flamini and was shipped out to Panathinaikos afterwards.

Then Wenger made the most awkward decision ever – giving the armband to new signing, William Gallas, when a certain Kolo Toure would have been touted as the next best thing. For obvious reasons, Toure left to the petro-greens of the Etihad but Gallas reign as captain was a tumultuous one before eventually losing the band to the club’s prized asset, Cesc Fabregas.

Thanks to his Barcelona DNA, Fabregas left in 2011 and the captain with the Little Boy inside him also departed the club in rather acrimonious circumstances. The band was given to the Belgian Verminator that looked like a beast in it but his injury problems were too much and he eventually lost his place in the squad. With Vermaelen leaving to Barcelona (what’s with them and taking our captains?), it was time for Mikel Arteta to do the honors and he will be forever remembered for his influence in the dressing room and his selflessness on the pitch.

At the ripe age of 34, Arteta has hung his boots and has began a new adventure in his career with Manchester City, but the void of the captaincy is expected to be filled. According to NBC Sports, Per Mertesacker is set to be named as the new Arsenal captain, as he’s going to be promoted from his current role as vice-captain. His defensive partner, Laurent Koscielny, is set to be named as the new vice-captain.

He moved to the club on transfer deadline day five seasons ago and he has made 207 appearances for the club, including 149 in the Premier League and 36 in Europe. He has scored eight goals for the team, including that all important equalizer in the FA Cup semifinal against Wigan two seasons ago.

I wish the BFG well in his new role as Arsenal captain. Long may he reign.


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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.


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