Arsenal centre-back Per Mertesacker could play a key role as the Gunners take on London rivals Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
The North Londoners head in to the clash coming off the back of a 2-0 FA Cup win over Middlesbrough and their attentions now turn to their bid for a top four place come the end of the campaign.
It’s all set to be an intriguing encounter against an improving Palace side who offer various dangers under new boss Alan Pardew in South London.
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Aside from the never-say-die attitude and obvious battling abilities, the Eagles can also play a bit, and with wingers such as Wilfried Zaha and Jason Puncheon they will look to exploit space down the flanks.
Arsenal-owned Yaya Sanogo is ineligible to play, but Pardew will likely count on former Gunner Marouane Chamakh alongside Dwight Gayle and the duo are strong in the air and win their fair share of headers.
As a result, Arsene Wenger will face the tough choice of sticking with new signing Gabriel Paulista – the Brazilian started the recent FA Cup victory – or bringing back German international Mertesacker.
To counter Palace’s aerial threat, Mertesacker would be the obvious option and his experience of lining up against Chamakh could prove vital in helping the North Londoners claim all three points on Saturday.
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As per the table provided by Opta Stats, the 30-year-old defender’s qualities are evident and in his partnership with Laurent Koscielny both players complement each other’s style.
Koscielny contributes more in terms of tackles, interceptions and even aerial battles won per game, yet Mertesacker is also efficient in winning his aerial battles due to his 6ft 6inch frame.
Gabriel needs to make his Premier League debut soon, but in such conditions Saturday’s clash in South London should not be that game and instead ought to see Mertesacker recalled to the XI.