Die Welt has given Per Mertesacker a mixed review as Germany battled through to setup a quarter-final clash with France at the World Cup in Brazil.
The experienced centre-back started in the heart of the back four and while Die Welt admits he’s the best of the bunch in terms of German defenders, they have criticised the amount of time it takes him to hit full speed in individual duels against quicker, more explosive players.
“Still the best of the German defenders – which admittedly means nothing. Good with headers but if he had to just sprint duels, you automatically think of a steam train struggling to start – Rating: 4 (Out of 5)” reports the German publication.
Speed from a standing start has never been the big German’s best attribute and it’s something which Arsene Wenger has compensated for well at Arsenal.
Laurent Koscielny is the perfect partner for Mertesacker at club level because he’s got an explosive burst of speed, which allows him to compensate when Mertesacker gets exposed against a faster player.
Borussia Dortmund defender and Manchester United target Mats Hummels would have started next to Mertesacker, compensating in terms of speed, had he not been unavailable through injury.
France represent a big challenge for Germany this Friday and it will be interesting to see if Karim Benzema drifts onto Mertesacker’s side of the defence to try and exploit the German’s slow start.
However, it’s important to remember that Mertesacker is an extremely experienced player and he’ll be aware of his main weakness and should know how to adapt around it.
He can drop deeper to give himself more time against quicker players but if Low wants Germany to play a high line, his centre-back partner has to be switched onto the danger because France have the players to really hurt Germany’s World Cup dream.