The criticism aimed at Per Mertesacker has intensified after his role in Aston Villa’s goal on Wednesday which is unfair.
I had my doubts about us bringing him in given his lack of pace but overall I think he has made a valuable contribution to stiffening up the back line since September.
The best thing about Mertesacker is that he looks happiest doing the dirty jobs. Nothing appears to give him more pleasure than making an awkward, off-balance block or sticking his head on the end of a striker’s boot if it means danger is averted.
That is something our other defenders – apart from Vermaelen – don’t offer in abundance. And it would be a shame if people don’t give him a break and it starts to become an issue that affects his game.
Arsenal fans have garnered a reputation in recent years for getting on players’ backs. I understand it is usually through frustration with talented players like Arshavin who do things you would only expect of a semi-professional. But it would be a shame if it becomes a regular habit and we make life uncomfortable for the BFG.
This is a German international with nearly 80 caps for his country – he knows what he’s doing. If nothing else, give him a break because he’s not Sebastien Squillaci. Rather, Mertesacker has an air of no-nonsense dependability about him, something the likes of Adams and Bould used to carry.
As for the game itself, we may look back on it come the end of the season and see it as the biggest bonus points of the season. It would have been palatable to take just one point from a game that featured a reshuffled defence, an absent defensive midfielder and a Villa side that was well up for a challenge. Instead we snatched all three.
It revives the winning momentum we’d gained over the past couple of months and gives us a good foundation for the rest of the Christmas period when we should realistically claim all nine more points available.
Don't Bridge that gap, Arsene
I pray the Wayne Bridge speculation is the work of an agent desperately looking for his next pay day. Why would Wenger take on a washed-up defender on loan, even in a dire emergency? This sounds like I’m leading up to a joke where Sol Campbell’s return a couple of years ago is the punchline. But it’s not, because by the time he came back Sol had slipped to ‘good’ having once been ‘brilliant’. Bridge was only ever been average and, on the evidence of his performance for West Ham against us last season, he’s dropped to ‘liability’.
Liverpool’s own goal
Kenny Dalglish has always loved to foment a sense that Liverpool suffer from some kind of conspiratorial injustice. Usually referees are his biggest target but this time he’s taking on the whole of football – free the Suarez One.
If an Arsenal player had been suspended for eight games, my first instinct – like Liverpool’s players and fans – would be to rally behind him. But then I’d like to think I’d also consider why he has been banned and I’d step back from championing the cause of someone found guilty of racially abusing an opponent.
Yes, Suarez’s case is based on hearsay evidence but, since we’re not talking about a player with an exemplary disciplinary record (as the victims of his proud goal-line handball, shoulder biting and one-finger salute will testify) the context changes.
I definitely wouldn’t Arsenal players and manager to stick up for their player so publicly and prominently by wearing t-shirts with his name and number on the back and taking every opportunity possible to speak out on his behalf. They could do what they want behind closed doors but by bringing their support into the public glare they’ve made a mistake. One that I wouldn’t be disappointed to see lead to more disciplinary action.