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October 2016
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Arsenal’s season in review: central defenders

By Walter Broeckx

Next in our series we will look at the central defenders. I will most of all focus on our two main central defenders Per and Kos but also will throw in a few Gabriel stats. Of course Gabriel only came halfway the season and thus played only a handful of matches. Debuchy and Monreal have played there at the start of the season a few times but I talked about them in the right/left back position so will leave them out of this.

The numbers:

Per Mertesacker Laurent Koscielny Gabriel
35 Games Played 27 6
3150 Minutes played 2288 349
1776 Passes 1156 129
89.3% Passing accuracy 88.8% 86%
79.2% Passing accuracy opp. half 74.9% 70.3%
156 Duels won 139 22
65 Duels lost 99 9
70.6% Duels won % 58.4% 71%
112 Aerial Duels won 86 17
46 Aerial duels lost 64 4
70.9% Aerial duels won % 57.3% 81%
212 Recoveries 192 31
20 Tackles won 23 3
7 Tackles lost 11 0
74.1% Tackles won % 67.6% 100%
194 Clearances 159 43
22 Blocks 18 5
72 Interceptions 93 19
0 Penalties conceded 1 0
13 Fouls won 17 2
8 Fouls conceded 19 3
2 Yellow cards 4 0
0 Red cards 0 0
0 Goals 3 0
Minutes per goal 762.7
2 Total shots on target 4 0
8 Total shots off target 3 1
20% Shooting accuracy 57.1%
1 Successful crosses 0 0
2 Unsuccessful crosses 2 0
33.3% Successful crosses %
1 Assists 0 1
3 Chances created 2 1
0 Offsides 3 0


Mertesacker played in the majority of the matches this season. Koscielny was injured at the start and had a bit of a start/stop season at the beginning. But gradually he became fitter and fitter and in the end we got the PerKos combination again in good form.

The passing accuracy is for all the central defenders well above the 86%. Amazingly Per Mertesacker has the highest pass accuracy in the opposition half of all the central defenders. It is noticeable that all of them drop more than 10% when a pass has to be made in the other half. Per has the smallest drop.

When we look at duels won  I must say that I was rather surprised by this. Per has won 70.6% of his duels and Kosciely only 57.3%. Gabriel was level with Mertesacker with 71%. Now the surprise was that I thought that Koscielny would win more duels. But on the other hand Per is using his experience and know how to know when to enter a duel and then try to win it. Using your head is what he does best one could say.

If we look at the aerial duels we see again that Per is better than Koscielny with 70.9% and the Frenchman only 57.3%. I want to point at the high number of aerial duels won by Gabriel in the matches he played: 81%. Impressive.

If we look at the recoveries we see that Per makes around 6 of them each match, Koscielny makes 7 of them and Gabriel makes 5 on average each match. So not a big difference between the defenders in this area.

When we look at tackling we see that Per again gets the better of Koscielny. Per wins 74.1% of his tackles and Koscielny only 67.6%. But these numbers look rather pale compared to Gabriel who has won 100% of this tackles when he played! Again : impressive!

When it comes to clearances we see no big difference between Per and Kos with both of them making some 5-6 clearances per match. Throwing in Gabriel we see that he made more than 7 clearances per match.

On the interception front we see that Koscielny was the best of the 3. Closely followed by Gabriel this time and Per being the defender with the least interceptions per match.

Koscielny was the only defender to concede a penalty against Arsenal last season of these 3. So they were rather disciplined in their own penalty area most of the time.

Talking about clean defenders and not hackers, Mertesacker only conceded 8 fouls in 35 matches. Let that sink in for a minute. That means that he usually plays 4 matches without making a foul and then in the 5th match makes one. In other words one foul per 393 minutes of playing time. Koscielny gets around 1 foul every 120 minutes and Gabriel around 116 minutes.  Our defenders certainly are ball players not just kickers.

Despite making few fouls for central defenders we do get a few yellow cards. Per got 2 and Koscielny 4. Gabriel managed to stay out of the book of the ref this season.

On the attacking front it is only Koscielny that has made an impact in the PL. Per has scored a few but only in cup games. Koscielny had 3 goals in the PL. Gabriel could only register an assist and so did Per.

Despite Per having a slow start to the season with a few not that impressive performances due to fatigue and world cup hangover he slowly recovered and became the Per I have learned to know in Germany and for Arsenal. Not flashy but calm and reliable most of the time.  As I said in the article I was surprised that Per had the best numbers when we compare him and Koscielny for most defensive arts.

But we mustn’t forget that Gabriel did even better than our two regular central defenders in some stats. The weakest thing for Gabriel is maybe his passing accuracy in the few matches that he played. But when it came to tackling and defending he was as good if not even better than Per and Kos.

My prediction for this season: I think Per will play his last season at the top, top level. He will turn 31 this year but having stopped at international level might help his career at Arsenal and keep him longer at the top level for us. But after that we might see a new duo in Koscielny and Gabriel for the next seasons till Koscielny gets too old. Koscielny is only one year younger than Per by the way. Something that surprised me also.

We’re on Twitter @UntoldArsenal.

3 comments to Arsenal’s season in review: central defenders

  • nicky

    The biggest improvement I note about Mertesacker is the tactical delay in his release of the ball. In the early days, he would pass the ball immediately on receiving it, regardless of any open space in front of him.
    NOW, he will advance with the ball if possible, seeking out a colleague to receive his pass.
    His comparative immobility due to his bulk, is more than compensated by his excellent reading of a game.
    “ils ne passeront pas” was a French saying during WW1.
    Per must bear this in mind because once an attacker gets past him he will never catch them. 😉

  • Damilare

    Surprising but impressive stats all over the place. And this is the department we were told needs a ‘world class’ addition. Wonder what ‘world class’ means…

    Gabriel and Koscienly are surely the future core of our defence. By then hopefully, Koscienly must have ‘borrowed’ some of Per’s football brain with his calm game reading antenna.

  • bob mac

    Per fouls per game.

    Fantastic……………….well done Per.