Just how important to Arsenal is Per Mertesacker?

The Germany international has had an excellent start to the new season, and should be viewed as one of the club’s most influential players.

With Arsenal sitting pretty on top of the Premier League, the plaudits will inevitably go to the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil for an excellent start to the season in north London.

Even Mathieu Flamini’s capture on a free transfer has been hailed as a key reason for Arsene Wenger’s side pushing their way to the table summit.

However, Per Mertesacker should also be taken into consideration when weighing up Arsenal’s most valuable stars.

The Germany international had a rocky start to life in north London after a move to England in August 2011, and certainly needed a bedding-in period to find his feet at the club.

However, this season the former Werder Bremen man has been an essential player in Wenger’s first-team and a key reason for Arsenal’s strong start to the new campaign.

With Thomas Vermaelen suffering from injury concerns, Mertesacker has struck up an effective centre-half pairing with Laurent Koscielny, in what looks like the best defensive partnership the Gunners have had in some years.

Mertesacker has started nine Premier League games this term, and his stats for clearances, blocked shots and interceptions show his importance to Arsenal.

As such, Wenger has confirmed that the club are in the middle of negotiations to extend the defender’s contract, which has around 18 months left to run.

In the absence of captain Vermaelen, Mertesacker has been the side’s defensive talisman, with his communication, leadership and dominance there for the Emirates Stadium faithful to see.

Despite the return of Vermaelen, Mertesacker has all the attributes to be one of the first names on Wenger’s teamsheet and is certainly worth his place in the Arsenal defence ahead of the Belgian.

If Arsenal are to go on and challenge for honours, keeping the excellent working partnership between Mertesacker and Koscielny together will be a key feature in the side’s defensive play.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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