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Has success bred contempt in Arsenal’s BFG?
Arsene Wenger admitted his side had looked “inexperienced” at the back in the horror show that was Arsenal’s 3-2 defeat at Stoke, an unlikely scoreline that you could have found pretty tasty odds for on the Unibet iPad betting app prior to kickoff.
He handed Hector Bellerin just his second Premier League start at the bear pit known as the Britannia, while deploying Calum Chambers at centre-back, a position he has only played in a handful of times.
While those two youngsters had days to forget, along with Kieran Gibbs, was the man most at fault for Arsenal’s latest capitulation their most experienced member of the back four?
Per Mertesacker has become a firm fan favourite since moving to north London in 2011, earning the unimaginative but apt nickname ‘BFG’. However, since winning the World Cup in the summer, Mertesacker has not been the commanding presence at the back that Arsenal need.
Given all our defensive injuries, the Gunners have needed a leader to hold the backline together. Instead we’ve had something resembling a giraffe on roller skates at times, gliding from one disaster to another.
The 30-year-old retired from the international scene following Germany’s win at the World Cup and admitted after returning from his summer holidays that he was finding it tough to get up for the humdrum of the Premier League after his success in Brazil.
That was evident against Stoke when Peter Crouch won every aerial battle, the lanky Potters forward taking great delight in schooling Mertesacker and Chambers.
At a time when Wenger needs his experienced players to dig Arsenal out of the deep hole we find ourselves in in the Premier League, Mertesacker is letting his manager down. He is not the only one though, with Mikel Arteta having been guilty of a lack of leadership for a while now.
With civil war raging amongst the fans over Wenger’s future, Mertesacker is fast becoming someone Arsene cannot rely on. So where does the BFG go from here? Perhaps when regular partner Laurent Koscielny gets back to full fitness we will see an improvement in Mertesacker but if not you have to start asking whether we have seen the best of the German.