It was an uncannily tight finish at Loftus Road when QPR hosted Arsenal. The Gunners played out a nervous last few minutes, winning by a goal. The team was thought to be peaking at the right time. But, to mar the surge, centre back, Gabriel Paulista fell to a hamstring. He was subbed off 37 minutes into the game.
Per Mertesacker is back at the starting lineup
Just when it was thought, the defence is sorted out, it turned sour. Against Monaco, Mertesacker had a disastrous outing. Thus the new signing, Paulista got a start in the next game against Everton. He took his own time, but was quite effective at the end.
A key clash in the Football Association Cup awaits the Gunners. Their recent string of performances exudes a silent confidence. Nevertheless, with Louis van Gaal at United, it is a tough fixture. Wayne Rooney is back in form. Man United fans will have their tails up.
For Arsenal, it will be the duo of Per and Koscielny at the back. The German would want to bury his Monaco performance and look for a fresh start. This would involve a huge amount of risk for the Gunners. There is the versatile Calum Chambers to fill the void at the back. But against Manchester United, you cannot rely much on fresh faces.
Keeping up the winning spirit will be a tough task
Against QPR, Arsenal almost gave away their 2-0 lead to lose the game. Chris Ramsey’s side had launched a number of attacks until Charlie Austin scored. Such a nimble defense would not really help the North London side in their endeavour.
As soon as Paulista was taken out, the pressure returned. Thankfully, Koscielny did not disappoint after coming on. Francis Coquelin made life a bit easy with his daring tackles. But Mertesacker cut a sorry figure. Only 30 years old, a central defender is expected to mature with time. Not so for Per, who seems to be well past his prime.
Age is just a number or is it more than that?
Paulista is a young defender. Only 24 years old, he has the heels of a horse to race back and protect his goalie. The scene is quite different with Mertesacker. He has a tall frame but the desire is somewhat missing. Is it the 6 year gap that is finally showing its ugly teeth?
Reports suggest that is not entirely the case with the German. Having won the World Cup last year, his slump in the earlier part of the season was explicable. But now it seems a different tale. There seems to be a lack of motivation for Per Mertesacker at Arsenal.
Recourse from the tragedy is hard to find
Arsene Wenger had sensed the alarm bells and made a decent signing from Villarreal. However, the injury ghost dealt another blow to the Gunners. At such a critical juncture, there aren’t many options for Wenger.
As a result, it would be up to the trusted ‘old’ warhorse to add some sheen. The correct timing, instincts, seem to be evade the Germany international. A defender’s career is never thought to be over at 30. Unfortunately, Mertesacker seems to change the opinion.
It is a vital game for Arsenal against Manchester United. History has seen blood between these two teams. Amidst such a high voltage clash, each of the 22 players would give his 100 percent. Thus, it would be uncalled for a player not to be at his optimum level in such a match. This is a glorious chance for Per to silence the critics. To win over the trust of his manager, an astute performance is the need of the hour. Will he raise the bar and seal his place back in the starting line-up? Well, we will wait till Monday night to watch the action unfold.