Former Arsenal striker Paul Mariner believes that Per Mertesacker should be starting for Arsenal.
The ESPN pundit feels that Mertesacker’s intelligence makes him a better option in defence than Shkodran Mustafi or Rob Holding.
In his best Arsenal eleven, Mariner had Mertesacker playing alongside Laurent Koscielny in a back four.
“I want security at the back,” Mariner said on ESPN FC (via The Express).
“There might be some eyebrows raised about Koscielny and Mertesacker.
“Mertesacker maybe they think ‘oh he’s past it’ but when they play together, he plays with his brain Mertesacker, he doesn’t get exposed.
“We’ve seen him in big, big games that everybody says ‘oh he’s going to get run over’, he doesn’t get run over.
“He uses his intelligence.”
Mertesacker and Koscielny had a very good partnership between 2011 and 2014, but recurring injuries to the pair disrupted that paring in recent years.
Shkodran Mustafi and Rob Holding were both signed in 2016, and have since partnered Koscielny more than Mertesacker has.
The German still has plenty of qualities to offer the Arsenal first team, as he demonstrated during the FA Cup final against Chelsea last season.
However, there are doubts about his ability to play every week.
Moreover, Mertesacker is retiring at the end of the season and Arsenal should ensure that they have able replacements in the long-term.
So while Mertesacker is an able squad player who can come in and do a good job in defence when Arsenal need him, the priority should be on improving the form and confidence of Mustafi and Holding.
On another note, it’s refreshing to see a pundit acknowledge the qualities Mertesacker has, rather than complain about his lack of pace.