Tag Archives: per

Mertesacker the Best Man to Lead Academy

Arsenal have been lucky enough to enjoy some of the finest exponents of the game wearing the cannon. Players who have illuminated the pitch with their talents and inspired millions of supporters.

These blessed men were given assets and they used them for the benefit of the club, and for this we must be thankful. Some of them though, never quite got on board with the ethos of The Arsenal – the fabled ‘Arsenal Way’ – and as such, the transition from playing titan to coach is one that is best done at another outfit.

Arsenal are not just a team, they are a way of life. It is the way you carry yourself, it is the manner in which you do everything, not just what you do on the pitch. Youngsters must first learn this before they wear the shirt for the first team.

Just like ‘Gentleman’ Bob Wilson said;

“It was this feeling you were wearing this big gun on your chest and everywhere you went, my word, you felt proud to be wearing it.”

So we can count ourselves lucky that we have a manager that looks to carry on these fine traditions. It is our identity and it means every new appointment behind the scenes – especially the coaching side – must be made with the sagest of decisions.

This is why Per Mertesacker’s posting as Head of the Arsenal Academy from next season is yet another brick in the foundation, and a continuation of the work that has taken place since 1886.

The lanky German has been front and centre of most media involvement from the moment the top of his head scraped the London Colney doorframe in 2011. So many Arsenal catalogue images of this gangly fellow on Arsenal emblazoned trikes, or ensconced in an Arsenal branded sleeping bag. On foreign tours he was first up to dress up and be the face of our own brand.

Per has not only been enthusiastic about representing Arsenal in any way, he has led the most professional of lives and reportedly trains diligently every week. In and out of the team in the last couple of years, Mertesacker has done nothing other than fight to force his way back into Wenger’s plans.

There are two key points though, that highlight just how effective the decision was to give Mertesacker the job of overseeing the next generation of Arsenal players.

Firstly, his performance in last season’s FA Cup Final was nothing short of miraculous. Not to diminish Big Per’s level of talent, but who expected the German to pull a performance like that out of the bag? No starts last season, up against title-winning Chelsea, and with a green defensive partner to keep an eye on, Mertesacker not only snuffed out the Blue threat for the majority, he did so without any nefarious methods. It was pure defending, and proof that pace may be useful, but just like Italian legend Paolo Maldini once said;

If I have to make a tackle, then I have already made a mistake.”

True dat Paolo.

We can also look to Mertesacker’s insistence on spreading his knowledge to the younger members of the squad, and his role as the senior member who all look to under moments of duress. Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin, Ozil and others have all mentioned how Per is the one to take players aside and set them back on track should their courses need correcting, or if anyone needs a stern talking to, then it is the big man himself who assumes the role.

Mertesacker, whenever he leads the line on the pitch, looks like he has the ear of everyone in the team. He has been a great leader for us, and now our Academy recruits can look forward to learning so much from this World Cup winner.

Mertesacker is au fait with The Arsenal Way, he adores the club, and we should all be delighted that his experience will be pumped back into the club rather than anywhere else. Our traditions will be carried on, and the kids will benefit from one of the wisest players available.

Mertesacker Signs Extension

Originally featured on Goonersphere.

The news of club Captain Per Mertesacker being offered and signing a one year extension to his current contract was met with a mixed reception by Gooners, but while fans may be unmoved by the German’s extended stay, there are a raft of positives to consider too.

The lanky German has yet to play a minute this season after injuring his knee in pre-season, and it appears it may be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for Mertesacker. 

The severity of his injury and the occasional wobble last season forced Wenger’s hand into purchasing Shkodran Mustafi, and his fellow German has taken to the Arsenal backline like pickled cabbage to bratwurst. 

Mustafi has a great record in a Gunners jersey, and his budding partnership with Laurent Koscielny has reinvigorated our defence. The decision to bring in the German from Valencia looks to be a shrewd one, but as Mustafi found his feet quickly and began to assert himself upon Gooners affections, the man he was brought in to replace was fighting hard to regain fitness.

The defender known as ‘BFG’ has not rested on his laurels. He has recognised the challenge that faces him in regards to gaining sufficient playing time and regaining fitness and has sought to overcome them. 

Mertesacker has taken up yoga in a bid to strengthen his limbs and aid his rehabilitation, all the while he has also done his duty for the club and taken part in the various events that involve being part of a global franchise.

When the moment comes that Per is included in a matchday squad, it is clear that he will be understudy to Shkodran Mustafi and Koscielny. There will come a time when his services are called upon though, and we should have no doubt that he can perform more than adequately for the team he so clearly is devoted to.

Fans who express concern over his pace are one hundred percent correct to do so. Mertesacker has all the speed of an overweight panda trying to scratch its nether regions. The thing is though, we knew that when we signed him. Also, he was the same speed when he picked up the majority of his Germany caps, and they deemed him more than fast enough to be part of their plans for world domination.

Mertesacker is not our first choice defender. People who think that offering him an extension is a bad decision though? How can it be a bad decision?

His defensive nous is far better than Gabriel’s and Rob Holding’s. His aerial ability is just as good as his colleagues. His distribution is far better than a defender should be able to boast of, and his tendency to vocalise his opinions on the pitch give him an air of leadership that few in the squad can muster.

To decry this decision as madness is madness in itself. The outlook that he is taking up a valuable squad space that someone better can use is simply wrong. Gabriel is strong in some areas, but it can be successfully argued that his weaknesses amount to a bigger deficiency than Mertesacker. In Rob Holding we have a true starlet, but he needs experience and a mentor. Well, Mertesacker has been touted as a future coach purely for his attitude and ethics toward the kids at London Colney.

What about bringing someone in who is better? Ok, we would need to bring in someone who is not established as they would not be happy to sit on the bench behind our current first choice pairing. They would have to be experienced, but satisfied with playing a bit-part role. 

Know anyone? 

Mertesacker can come into the team and out seamlessly as he knows the tactics and his cohorts inside out. He is experienced, still talented and he can ensure two of the brightest prospects at our club – Calum Chambers and Rob Holding – have all the information and protection they need to succeed. 

Mertesacker staying for another season is a good thing, on and off the pitch. 

Shkodran Mustafi – The Thinking Man’s Defender

Originally posted on Goonersphere

Shkodran Mustafi has earned his former club a decent sum via the defender’s transfer to Arsenal, and while there are mitigating factors to the high transfer fee, it should not overshadow what a special player we have signed.

The figure is a reported £35million, and Valencia were always going to hold out for the maximum amount. The Spanish club are in dire straights in regards to their fiscal situation, and despite their wishes to hold on to the German, a large amount of numbers on a cheque was always going to be the answer they were looking for.

With Mustafi also being 24, it means he can provide a stable foundation for many years to come. 

The German international is of course a World Cup winner, which addsa certain lustre to his name, but he did so playing on the right of the defence. His versatility is another string to his bow, as he is just as comfortable in either position. 

The man with the name that cannot fit into a chant can boast of a wealth of experience, which at such a young age is a huge asset over defenders of the same age. Mustafi started in the youth systems of Germany, but an early move to Everton – where he made a single substitute appearance – and subsequent transfers to Sampdoria and Valencia have given him a baptism to all styles of football. His spell in Italy in particular, where defending is an art form, will be of particular use.

His experience, his versatility, all make a huge difference. Another tick in the box is his exemplary technique. There are a host of videos on Youtube which showcase the German’s deft touch, juggling the ball with all parts of his boots and making it look simple. Not exactly in the typical defenders skillset – aside from Laurent Koscielny of course (who can forget his skill and rabona finish from twenty odd yards in a warm up last year?).

Mustafi you see, is more of your modern-day cerebral defender. The monolithic sentry-type of defender still exist, and the best partnerships are often a mix of the two, but Mustafi isn’t a tackle merchant. 

He is strong in the air, but what is most apparent is that there isn’t a weakness in his armour. He can deal with all types of threat, from the speedster on his shoulder to the target man with the flailing elbows. Physical battles, a flat dash to a loose ball – all of these situations Mustafi can, and has, dealt with succinctly.

He is the perfect successor to the aging Mertesacker. Our very own BFG still has much to offer, but his heir apparent is in the same mould as his fellow German. Both have excellent positioning and can quell threats with a simple movement, rather than a madcap reactionary run. With Mustafi also possessing adequate pace, we have potentially a Mertesacker 2.0.

Which should be excellent news for Koscielny, who formed the other half of one of our better partnerships in recent years – but also us fans.

With Koscielny and Mustafi in the centre of our defence, we have a bedrock to build on, and even when we have committed more men forward than we should have, with those two at the back, we will be on surer footing than in previous years.

We really can now boast of a defence worthy of a title tilt. Shkodran Mustafi is worth every penny if he can show why he was in last seasons LaLiga Team of the Season as part of a struggling Valencia side.

Per Mertesacker – Arsenal Captain

The choice of destination for the captains armband may have been derided by some fans, but Per Mertesacker will give his all to the club in his new role – whether it is on or off the pitch.
Towering defender Mertesacker had rivals for the honour of leading the club, but it is he who will lead the troops, and ensure that all the players have an appropriate role model and motivator for the season.

There is a slight problem in that the German is not due to take to the pitch in a playing capacity for some time. This means that the armband will go to the next suitable candidate. Arsene Wenger commented on this very issue, and intimated that experience counts when wearing the inconspicuous strap of material –“I think it is absolutely natural to be him. [In his absence] that’s where it will be taken by the assistants. One of them will be Koscielny, also Cazorla – the experienced players.” ( quote from HITC Sport ).

So, it seems that experience is the key asset that Wenger values when choosing a captain – and Mertesacker has that in abundance.

The player we fans know as ‘The BFG’ is a World Cup winner, and has been at the club since 2011. On the day he signed, which resembled a mad-dash round the transfer aisles on the last day of the transfer window, most had heard of his name, but few would have guessed at the impact he would go on to make.

Largely consigned to ‘average’ territory thanks to a severe lack of pace, Mertesacker’s other strengths more than make up for his glacier-like running speed. His positioning, hewn from years of playing at the top level, and his astute awareness of the attacking instincts of his opponent mean not only can he hold his own – but that he has so much to offer our younger generation.

The latter point above is key. With Calum Chambers, Rob Holding and Krystian Bielik very much pushing through and intent on forming our defence for years to come, Mertesacker’s knowledge if passed down would give these promising talents an advantage.

With Santi Cazorla and Laurent Koscielny as back-up skippers, the voice that booms loudest on the pitch may not be heard, but a true leader will grab his men by the scruff of the neck whether he is wearing the armband or not. Per Mertesacker is the clubs fine collector, he commands respect. More importantly than that, he adores the club – and he will not sit idly by if players are not pulling their weight. 

Jack Wilshere – himself a potential future captain – also commented on the awarding of the captaincy to the World Cup winner – 

It is good news for us. For me anyway, over the last few seasons he has been like a captain,” Wilshere told Arsenal Player.

“He is organised, and he won’t take any nonsense from anyone. If someone is late or on their phone, he is on to them – it doesn’t matter who you are. He is the one who organises our team dinners so for me he is a great choice

He is a natural leader and I know he has picked up a injury, but he can still bring so much to us as a team. I’m sure if you ask the other boys, they will say he would be an obvious choice for captain. We are happy. (Quote from Evening Standard).

So, the players are behind the choice, and Mertesacker will be delighted. He may not have a presence on the pitch, but there will be no doubt that a certain standard will be expected. Woe betide anyone who slips below that, if Wilshere’s comments are anything to go by!

Any captain at Arsenal has an uphill battle. With a former captain being cast in bronze outside the stadium, there will always be comparisons. Tony Adams was perhaps born to lead, and we may not ever see the likes of him again. 

All we can ask for is that our new skipper will do the distinction justice. We should have no doubt that he will. 

The Scapegoat Infestation

Originally posted on Goonersphere.
In an hour, we have the next, must-watch instalment of Kim Kardashian’s latest series – The Khardashians Get Athletes Foot – but next up we have a real treat for you on BBC82, Sky Channel 4235. David Attenborough is back, going to all manner of lengths to gaze at scapegoats in their natural habitat.’

“In every country, there are animals that are shunned. Dogs in China, Guinea Pigs in Peru, and sharks the world over, are viewed as unnecessary. Their place in the natural world is shifted, as they fight to adapt upon the stringent conditions placed upon them by humans.”

“In Britain, foxes have always suffered at the hands of man, thanks to their scavenging tendencies, which put these creatures at loggerheads with farmers and their brethren. Thus, they have been persecuted and hunted.”

“In a certain corner of London, a breed of scapegoat has found a home, and the locals are none too happy with this new tenant. Scapegoats can be found in every country, but in North London, the previously rare Cannonus Haterei has flourished. Scapegoats can be found congregating wherever excuses are required, and in this particular location, this animal has more than enough sustenance.”

“Cannonus Haterei – or the Cannon Scapegoat – now lives in amongst the local population, but they are not welcome. People have left scapegoat traps all around their domain, and a clearer message cannot be sent. Yet, they remain, and thrive. How, and why?”

“The Cannon scapegoat has always lived here, but this boom in population has been sourced back to the last few years, and in particular, the malaise that surrounds Arsenal Football Club.” 

“As the frustration grows at The Emirates, more scapegoat pups are brought into the world. As blame is sought, the frequency of scapegoat litters spikes dramatically. In particular, there are even sub-breeds of this highlighted animal – the Mertesackus Pernus, and the Walcotian Theum – which serve to shine a light on just a couple of the reasons why this animal is so plentiful in the area.”

The great scapegoat culling of the ’70’s through to the present day in Merseyside shows an effective, if ignorant, technique to combat the scapegoat plague. And a plague is exactly what it is. Feeding mercilessly from the negativity and hatred that forms when blame is doled out liberally and blindly, the scapegoat culling in Liverpool was so effective as it turned a blind eye to the errors of the local football club, and chose only to blame extraneously. Thus, the scapegoats found a new home at the feet of where the blame lay. The media to this day continue to point a gnarled finger in any direction other than at Anfield, so the scapegoats never again find a home nearby.

This is not the most effective measure. The only true way to combat this pest is to find the root of the problem and flush it out. This crux is the real reason why scapegoats are so drawn to a location. If the local council at Highbury continue to ignore this advice, then the ratio of scapegoats to people will tip wildly in favour of these animals.

The source is a mixture of things, but it is a concoction which attracts this breed from miles around. From unspent riches, to unaddressed weaknesses in the squad, via a splintered group of fans, Arsenal football club must combat this source if the infestation of scapegoats is to be nulified.

Meanwhile, our cameras have picked up another litter of pups sporting a previously unseen facet of their DNA. This litter is completely hairless, and has spawned thanks to the poorly-timed excuses of Ivan Gazidis – Arsenal’s Chief Executive. The ire from fans has created this new sub-breed, and a new name for the pups and their future kin – Gazidor Iveia – is fitting.
It looks as though the scapegoat problem is here to stay. Next week, I visit Manchester, where a virulent strain of pric*has been discovered which had only ever been previously found in Portugal, Milan, Madrid and the Kings Road. 

The Lost Art of Defending

Originally posted on Goonersphere

Bruce Lee once famously uttered – ” Don’t think. Feel. It is like a finger pointing away to the moon. DON’T concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all the heavenly glory “.


This quote is open to interpretation, and you never need an excuse to paraphrase the great man – but I think it handily summarises the contrast between good defenders – and great ones. Defenders who aren’t simply reaction merchants. Defenders who can dissolve trouble before it even materialises. These backline Knights sometimes appear to the unfocused eye to be lackadaisical.

That is simply because they have already dealt with the problem rather than running after an attacker’s shadow.

Continue reading The Lost Art of Defending

Arsenal Vs Bayern Match Review – A Night To Remember. 

The negativity surrounding Arsenal’s Champions League campaign is understandable. Two defeats from two matches is enough for fans to be reaching for the white flag – but when the opposition is of the calibre of Dynamo Zagreb and Olympiacos – then it could be justified for Gooners to consign this seasons European to simply hoping that Arsenal don’t finish third and therefore drop into the Europa League.

A 2-0 win was as far removed from what was expected and to a man, the Arsenal team played their roles perfectly and breathed new life into their Champions League campaign with a victory that will be remembered for quite some time, especially given the calibre of the opponent.

Continue reading Arsenal Vs Bayern Match Review – A Night To Remember.