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October 2016
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Arsenal’s season in review: our three central defenders

My apologies – the site is still playing up a little, and not publishing the articles with the right time stamp.    Sorry for any oddity you might notice.   Tony

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.

17 comments to Arsenal’s season in review: our three central defenders

  • As noted in my comment at the top, the site is not quite behaving. Here is one comment that you won’t be seeing here, but which came in earlier from 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.

  • insideright

    It’s also notable that Mertesacker has gradually become more comfortable on his left foot – which has helped him become calmer on the ball rather than having low level panic when the obvious pass is on his ‘wrong’ side.

  • Mick

    Jack Wilshere fined £40,000 by the pathetic FA for his Tottenham chant. What a joke.

  • Jambug

    Great stuff Walter, with some surprising stats (Per conceding just 8 fouls is remarkable) and some not so surprising (6 yellow cards for just 30 fouls. 1 every 5 fouls)

    Considering how bad our defenders are supposed to be I would be interested to see how there statistics compare with all there ‘World Class’ counterparts in the PL.

    Do you know where I could find such in depth statistics for them.

  • Jambug


    Pathetic, but no surprise.

    I’ve lost count how many times I’ve had to watch Rooney and many others tell a ref to F***off yet nothings ever done.

  • nicky

    I’m glad at last that someone has drawn attention to Rooney and his constant whining to the referee in every match in which he plays.
    As you rightly say, no action is ever taken to curb this irritating habit.
    I await the day when the PGMOs realise that Ferguson has gone and the spoilt part of Manchester no longer has to receive preferential treatment. And the mouthy Rooney will have to hold his perpetually wagging tongue. 😉

  • Al

    If all three stay fit for next season we should be in a better position to challenge. The real surprise was Koscielny’s age, thought he was much younger than that. I guess that means he still has at least about five years at the top of his game.

    Off topic
    The telegraph is reporting that Arsenal have the toughest fixtures after our midweek CL games next season, more than anyone else. Other teams will have easy and mostly home games after their midweek fixtures. The telegraph may just be noticing now, but think it’s the fifth year running with things like this….

  • Mandy Dodd

    We have some excellent defenders who compliment the way we play. One of the things I am. So impressed with them is how clean in the tackle they usually are. And they have to be with some of the refs we have faced. Terry and Cahill have their media /AAA supporters, they may have impressive stats, but play in a defensively well organised team, and they get away with murder, our defenders do not.
    Look forward to Chambers hopefully developing into a fine central defender as well.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    I think we are approaching the level of having 2 full internationals at every position that Chelsea came in and bought in the first 3 years under Abramovich. We all know that the difficulty lies in keeping them all playing and happy. It will be testing for our manager. As for our CBs. I like who we have and with Chambers coming along and barring injuries we are looking good.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Yup , our defensive spine be really fine . No sleep lost there .

  • Micheal Ram

    I think Per will continue on for the next 3 years. He has that presence in defense and chief communicator. Our assistant manager is Steve Bould and guess until what age he played. Don’t you think he would have spent a lot of time with Per about the art of defending in England? Benteke had no game with Per in the cup final. With Kos, Gab, Mon, Bell and Coq, Per will never have to worry about speed anymore. And they need him for the height. Probably, he will join in the back room staff hen he retires eventually, he is an Arsenal fan. The last remaining ball playing defender who prefers clean tackling.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    For nicky and all the seniors – as our cups overflowth , sort of …..I think !

    OMG, I’m rich!

    Silver in the Hair
    Gold in the Teeth
    Crystals in the Kidneys
    Sugar in the Blood
    Lead in the Ass
    Iron in the Arteries
    An inexhaustible supply of Natural Gas.

    I never thought I’d accumulate such wealth!

  • ARSENAL 13

    Mertesackers excellent numbers prove what a great defender he is. What those stats dont tell us is his ability to read the game. His positional play, just awesome.

    How rare it is. That Mertesacker does last ditch defending that every plundits love. No wonder they love Terry and Cahil.

    Perhaps we are seeing the last of the great defenders in the game. Perhaps not. Perhaps Mertesacker can guide Chambers and Hayden to be the next PER MERTESACKER.

  • para

    insideright: Yes he has, i used to panic in when he got the ball and there was an attacker heading towards him, but glad to say he has managed to calm my nerves somewhat.

    Nicky: Fergie has not really gone, he still hovers and this is probably a “tactical move” on the help, especially as it certainly has caught their attention that people have noticed. Expect it to start up again next season, where Manu HAS to perform now.

    Arteta still thinks the de BIG fence(play on parking the bus, could not resist it 🙂 ) can be better though, but i get where he is coming from, should always try to improve. It is going to be a tough time letting the upcoming defensive ones get good game time, maybe pre-season games?

  • Andy Mack

    The numbers are a bit of a shock to me.
    I thought Kozzer would have better numbers and Per slightly worse.
    Per had a couple of really shockingly poor games, so the rest of the time he must have been even better than I’d thought. He does usually read the game much better than the idiots give him credit for (the same with Arteta).
    Kozzer may have lost a lot of duels but he does enough to break up the oppositions ‘flow’, so whoever beat him couldn’t actually do what they wanted to with the ball.
    Hopefully Gabby has picked up enough English now to know what his colleagues are doing.
    I think he was diving in a bit (usually very successfully!) as his poor communication skills left him playing on his wits alone. I expect him to be one of the revelations of the new season.

  • Menace

    ARSENAL 13 – You’re right you need two to make a Per! 😉 .

  • Tim Charlesworth

    I was also surprised by the number of duels lost by Koscielny, who seems to tackle very well, and is competent in the air. I wonder if this arises from his tendency to try to nip in front of players and steal the ball. Obviously this is a high-risk, high-reward strategy, and often does us a lot of good. If such situations are categorized as ‘duels’ however, this tendency will drag down his ‘duel-win-percentage’. As long as he has cover, this is a good form of aggressive defending. Recently his judgment seems to have improved, and he rarely does it now unless he has cover behind him. Beware statistics!