Arsenal will once again fall short on winning their first Premier league title in 11 years after a somewhat disastrous season. This season will really feel like a missed opportunity for the Gunners as they haven’t had to compete with the typical top four and should really have ended their horrible drought without the League title.
On 14th February 2016 Arsenal beat league leaders Leicester 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium and the players celebrated as if they were going to go on and win the title, there was a sense within the fans that the wait may finally be over.
How wrong could we be, it is now April and we are 13 points of Leicester with six games to go.
Where has it all gone wrong? We focus on the defensive frailties of Arsenal and whether they need reinforcements this summer.
Arsene Wenger has been under pressure this season after failing to sign a single outfield player last summer, everyone, fans especially said Arsenal need a new controller in midfield and a leader at the back, they failed to sign either and are now paying the price for this as they are out of all competitions in April and are more or less out of the title race.
Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista have come amongst the most criticism from the fans and pundits. Their lacklustre performances have cost Arsenal dearly this season and performances that really stand out for myself is Mertesacker against Chelsea – after getting sent off it was a near impossible task for Arsenal to get back into the game, he has been exposed several more times this season. He has been labelled too slow and not mobile enough over the years but Arsene Wenger has always stood by him. Gabriel who was brought by the Gunners in January 2015 for £11.2 million has had an opportunity to nail down his spot this season after Mertesacker was dropped to the bench, after impressive performances now and then for the Gunners there was hope himself and Koscielny could secure a very good partnership, but after getting bullied by 18-year-old Marcus Rashford in Arsenal’s 3-2 defeat to Manchester United there were no doubt question marks if he could take us to another level.
Laurent Koscielny is without a doubt one of Arsenal’s best defenders and will always be the first name on the team sheet if fit, so how do Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista compare this season?
The Premier League is the toughest league in the world, defenders especially have to be strong and stay grounded and win their duels. Gabriel impresses in this area with 1.24 tackles won with Mertesacker scoring 1.14, losing the ball in a defensive area could be costly for your team, and Gabriel Paulista has lost 1.24 of tackles, that is the exact same amount of tackles won and for a defender that stat is very, very poor. Mertesacker scores a much more impressive 0.50 with tackles lost. Aerial duels will be tough for any defender in this league, but with both Gabriel and Mertesacker standing at over 6’ foot tall they have impressed with this stat, Mertesacker has a very high score of 76.27% with Gabriel following on 67.21%. Everyone knows interceptions could nearly be as important as scoring a goal, if you intercept a pass which would play someone through on goal then you’re helping the team massively, you have to be alert and mobile to do so and Gabriel has a very impressive score of 3.47, this shows he is alert to the danger and can intercept play when needed, Mertesacker scores a low 1.54 which is not so impressive. Every defender has a bad day, but defensive errors for your team could be costly on the outcome, Gabriel scores a not so pleasing 0.12 and Mertesacker 0.10. In total Gabriel scores a very impressive 26.36 when it comes to total defensive score, which is great, above average and shows he has quality however Mertesacker scores a poor 12.74. There can be question marks over the Germans Arsenal future.
In summary, both defenders are not good enough to start for Arsenal, I feel Gabriel could be good enough one day, but he needs more time and needs to work on certain aspects of his game before he can be a regular for Arsenal. Mertesacker is already being sounded out of the team and there is speculation he will not be offered a new contract, Arsenal have been linked with Manolas in recent weeks and I feel they need to go all out for him, he is 24 years old, has the experience needed and is a solid centre back. If Arsenal are to compete next year they need to sign a new CB who could also be a leader in the team, Gabriel and Mertesacker may be frustrated with the lack of chances they’d get if a new defender was brought but it’s a decision that has to be made by Arsene Wenger.