The opinion on Per Mertesacker seems pretty divided, but there is a wrong side.
That side is the one which chooses to use odd platitudes such as ‘desire’, one which only picks up on flaws and fails to acknowledge the strengths they bring out.
As Arsenal struggled to a 4-0 loss at Southampton on Saturday, blame for the first goal was given to Mertesacker by the BT Sport pundits. Why? Well, who knows? One on hand the goal by Cuco Martina was described as incredible and a one-off. The Southampton RIGHT-BACK making his FIRST START for the club shot from 30 YARDS first time and scored.
On the other hand, Mertesacker was criticised for his clearance.
Let’s get this straight: he cleared the ball 30 yards to an unknown defender who hasn’t scored a goal since February 2014. And that was, apparently, a bad thing.
Of course it never would have been mentioned had Martina not hit the shot of his life, but from that point onwards Mertesacker was having a bad game according to those who are paid to comment on the game. Shane Long fouled the German and put the ball in the back of the net, it was a moment which saw Mertesacker questioned even though Robbie Savage agreed it was a foul and said the referee made the correct decision.
As the game went on, Shane Long was a thorn in Arsenal’s side but it was ignored that he was usually causing Laurent Koscielny more issues than he was causing Mertesacker. Both the second and fourth goal show that much.
But no, Mertesacker is slow and gangly, so everything just be his fault. If he was so poor, more international standard players would exploit him. His poor acceleration is nothing new, and makes him one of the best readers of the game in England. Maybe it’s also that which has made him one of the most composed defenders in the game. Filling in where Koscielny steps out to defend proactively, Mertesacker defends quietly but with assurance.
On Monday night, against David Silva, Sergio Agüero and Raheem Sterling, Mertesacker was immense. He gave a superb performance to keep out three forwards, all of whom are much smaller and quicker than he is. If his lack of pace was there to be exploited, they would have done it.
There’s no question that he failed to perform his very best on Boxing Day, but thay can be said of any Arsenal player. Criticising the German because of his speed is lazy and mentioning other flaws in his game is plain wrong. He really doesn’t have many, so take a closer look next time he’s in action.