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What do you mean you haven’t bought “Making the Arsenal” – as a Christmas present yet?????.
By Walter Broeckx
Here we are some 3 months after the most painful August in years for any Arsenal supporter. It was in fact very painful until the last days. And then suddenly we saw that Arsenal brought in some new players. The word was out very soon by those who in loud voice pretend to know a bit about football: all we had bought was utterly rubbish. So after 3 months it might be a nice moment to see how rubbish they were.
Let us start with “the pole” and I don’t mean someone from Poland. No it was his nickname in Germany translated in English. In Germany Per Mertesacker was called “the pole” because of him not being the smallest person around. In fact I think the biggest problem for Arsenal was to find a shirt that would be long enough fro him.
The buying of Per Mertesacker was a long story finally coming to an end. In fact those of us who follow German football a little bit knew about Mertesacker for a long time. I do take a look at German football occasionally, and I have to admit I liked him a lot. And I also loved the fact that he never made it a secret that he was a very big fan of Arsenal.
He has said himself that when he finally got the chance to join us he didn’t had to hesitate that much. It was not that he wanted out at Bremenbut but getting the chance to play for the team he admired most outside Germany was something he had to do. Playing in the red and white of Arsenal was something he always would have loved to do and so we had a player who didn’t came over just for the money. No we had him coming over to join the foreign club of his heart. And in fact this is something a returning theme this season with a lot of players we have bought. Almost all of them had already some kind of a love affair with Arsenal. Per was no different.
So how has he done so far? He made his home debut with the 1-0 victory at the start of September. We then went to Dortmund where he was helping us to victory until a last minute effort flew in the top corner. Not much he could do about it. On the back of that game we went to Blackburn and we conceded 4 goals of which only 1 was really a Blackburn, and a valid, goal. 2 own goals and one offside goal killed us off. The next game we won 3-0.
In the Champions league game against Olympiacos we won 2-1 and the goal from a corner was bad in the way that nobody really was awake at that moment. Immediately we lost our following game again at Tottenham. Per Mertesacker was on hand to see VDVaart handle the ball. He did signal it to the ref but he is a very polite boy so he doesn’t attack referees because he has been brought up that way and just accept the decision and get on with the game. Again the defeat was more a result of the midfield going a sleep (or maybe not fresh enough any more) and letting people run at the defence to freely.
In the next game we won 2-1 against Sunderland the goal came from a magnificent direct free kick. Not much he could do about that one. A faultless performance of the defence at Marseille was the next game and we won this one 1-0.
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We conceded a goal against Stoke but we scored 3 ourselves so not that bad after a CL game in midweek and for the first time we could win after a CL game this season. And most of all: the long throws of Delap bounced off our defence as if it was a fly we brushed away.
In the next game at Chelsea Per didn’t look 100% at his best with the first two goals. For the first he was slightly off balance so he couldn’t jump enough and with the second goal the ball came in at a height that should have been dealt with by the players in front of him.
A clean sheet against Marseille was followed by a rest in the next game. Maybe he doesn’t like rest at all because in his next game he wasn’t accurate enough and was involved in the Norwich goal. He couldn’t do much about the Dortmund goal in the last seconds when other players had gone asleep at that moment. He was on the field when Fulham scored a goal when Vermaelen put the ball in his own net. And after that we kept a clean sheet at Wigan.
So all in all this means that in the 15 games Arsenal has played with Per being involved we conceded 15 goals. A few of them shouldn’t have been counted and shouldn’t have happened, but if the ref gives a goal not much you can do about it. A bizarre thing maybe is that 7 of those goals came in two games. So in the other 13 games we only conceded 8 goals with Per in the team.
And this from a player who has had to adapt to a different country, different language and a different league (and perhaps we might say, a different approach to refereeing – at least by some EPL refs). He also had to move house during that period so live was very hectic in his first few weeks at Arsenal.
And what did we buy with Per Mertesacker apart from having a Gooner on the pitch?
I like the way he handles the game. He has a no nonsense approach to his game. His job is to defend and defending is what he does. You will not see him do fancy footwork. But if a block is needed, a head needs to get in the way, a foot has to hold firm to stop the opponents he is the man to have. I would say we bought some German efficiency.
What we also have is German confidence. He knows that he is not a Messi or Maradonna. But he knows what he is capable of and he is confident that he is a good defender. I also think he is a good defender and the German coaches also think he is a good defender. You don’t get over 70 caps for the German team if you are not a decent player.
And even if he makes a mistake like against Norwich he just stands up and continues his business. You don’t see him standing with shaking knees. No, he knows he didn’t look good but he will just continue his job and try to do his best.
With his height we have something new in our defence compared to the last years. The time where some other teams just had to throw the ball high in the penalty area seem over for the moment. Our pole is on hand to keep the ball away. It was telling that when Stoke came to the Emirates Delap was taken off the field after a while because the knew it wouldn’t work this time around.
And all this defending is done with hardly making fouls or getting yellow cards. Only one yellow card in fact so far this season and this is so typical Mertesacker he hardly needs fouls to stop the other team. In fact in his 10 games in the EPL so far Mertesacker only committed 5 fouls. Really amazing for a central defender.
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