Vice-captain Per Mertesacker led the team out against Bayern Munich on Tuesday, before delivering one of his best performances in an Arsenal shirt.
The German is often lazily criticised. ‘Too slow’, ‘too weak’, are too anything else which seems negative. Fact is, he’s too intelligent and composed for any of those things to actually be true enough to impact on his game. It makes ‘punditry’ like this look absurd.
— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) October 20, 2015
As Douglas Costa troubled Héctor Bellerín early on, the German defender was able to defend his near post every single time. Mertesacker made four near post clearances on a night that the Brazilian winger failed with 10 of his 11 crosses.
Robert Lewandowski was sniffing around for an opportunity, but the door was slammed shut on every occasion so much so that the Pole stuck to Laurent Koscielny’s side of the pitch to try and find more joy. He didn’t get any there, either.
The beauty of Mertesacker and Koscielny has always been the way they dovetail and this was a classic performance. The German keeps the shape tight, the Frenchman hunts the ball when he can. If you run at Mertesacker, he’ll tackle you. If you make a run near him, he’ll block the pass to you.
On the ball, you couldn’t have asked for much more. Mertesacker was never dispossessed and completed 14 of his 15 passes. We didn’t have much possession; it was crucial to keep the ball when we got it and Per did just that.
On a night when Arsenal couldn’t afford any mistakes, Per Mertesacker was at his faultless best.