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August 2021

The new ones : The pole is standing firm

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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.




17 comments to The new ones : The pole is standing firm

  • Rich_Fryer

    Don’t forget his contribution to attacking corners. He drew the defenders to allow TV5 to score vs Fulham

  • Brickfields Gunners

    He has adapted well in the short time he’s been at Arsenal and he plays the ball well on the ground too -the Arsenal way.
    With Santos’ injury( & injuries to almost all our fullbacks), are we going to play all 4 centrebacks in the same team ?
    Am looking forward to it.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Yes Brickfield I have asked myself the same question. Will we see 4 centre backs in the next weeks playing in all positions?
    Or he could put Miquel at left back but in fact he also is a central defender. But I think he didn’t do bad last night when he came one at left back.

  • Dan

    I think it’s very important to keep TV5 in the Centre. I would play Miguel on the left against the toffees. Then with TV5 on the left side of centre he can cover if Miguel has a wander upfield.
    I would worry about putting Miguel in with Per. Not that he’s not capable but switching around a centre back pairing often causes errors in the first couple of games they’re playing together. Now that Per and TV5 have been playing regularly together the partnership has really developed and both look world-class, we can’t break that up.

  • WalterBroeckx


    yes I agree with you on this. As long as our right backs are out I would keep the Per – TV in the centre and put Koscielny at right back and now Miquel at left back. Once Jenkinson is back and later Sagna Koscielny can switch with Per and TV and they could get some rest now and then

    Again we are at an amazing stage where we have no full backs fit…

  • Gooner4mIndia

    Of all the names that were mentioned in the transfer window, none inspired as much hope…he is a fine defender and can only get better. We’ll soon see him score a few goal. I guess Lord Arsene is already working on it!

  • Sammy The Snake

    Since the subject was discussed in an earlier article:

    Arsenal have announced that they are going to unveil statues of Thierry Henry, Tony Adams and Herbert Chapman on Friday to mark their 125th anniversary as a club.

    It’s nice to see Henry & Adam being recognised so early in their lives.

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    Paradoxically I think we attack better without overlapping fullbacks because our wide front players aren’t tracking back as much. The option would be nicer to have though!

  • Johnny Deigh

    Mertesacker looks to be settling in, and he definitely has given us more depth in being able to play him next to Vermaelen and thus freeing up Koscielny to play RB.
    And yes the height that we have in the back 4 has really helped in dealing with high balls into the area. Remember when we had Touré, Gallas? One was 6’0″, the other 5’11½”, and Clichy was always picked on and exploited in aerial attacks.

  • jitty

    Did everyone enjoy that fixed final round of matches?

  • makenzi

    Partying at le-AAA because we lost.

  • Very delighted to read this a give what it deserve the german man.The media as usual they brandy him as slow defender but they forget he had giant steps.Which i rate Aron Lennon steps equals to one Pole.No nosense defender just there to defend and that is it.I wish that Djouru would learn a lot from him but i am very doubtufull cause to start with he dont have the confidence as what a real defender should have.He had plenty of years wearing the arsenal shirt and i dont see in all honesty he will be any good.
    Very much delighted with the positioning and attitude of Mertesaker.

  • Mandy dodd

    You are correct makenzi, the aaa have gone into meltdown at this result and the santos injury. Still, with our recent form, they have to clutch any straw they can find

  • RedGooner

    They can say what they like about us BUT I love the mirror headline.
    Theres a new reality show starting Manchester after xmas …
    Called the EUROPA league …Its not something us Arsenal fans will ever want to see but its great that manchester has something to do on Thursday nights.

  • Anne


    you mentioned this before Manu and Manc went out. Care to elaborate?

  • jitty

    Sorry – but i am too busy laughing at Lyons 7 ‘goals’ to talk about what went on in dortmund and greece

  • @walter you predicted of a flood how did you see that COMING??? I like all your work just keep it up. So wot are the doom sawyers gona do about it,what about the AAA? The two richest clubs in Europa!! hmmm i slept like a baby.