Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown has told reporters that Per Mertesacker’s exclusion from the starting line-up on Sunday could be a defining moment in changing the Gunners’ back-four, The Daily Mail reports.
Following the team’s horror show against Monaco in midweek, boss Arsene Wenger decided to ring the changes for the match against Everton on Sunday, with Mertesacker one of those to be left out.
The German international’s place in the line-up has been under threat after the Gunners signed Gabriel Paulista from La Liga outfit Villarreal in the January transfer window.
And now that the Brazilian stepped in for Mertesacker on Sunday and impressed in his Premier League debut, Keown has predicted that the 6ft 6inch centre-back may find it hard getting back in.
“I think it could be a defining moment in changing Arsenal's back four now, for sure,” Keown was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.
“Mertesacker, with the experience he has in the game, should have been calling these young players back the other night, the two full-backs were just drifting up the pitch and not coming back.
“When he's been left isolated one-on-one he struggles due to his lack of pace too. Gabriel is keen to defend so he'll be relishing this opportunity to stamp a claim for a first-team spot.”
Is Gabriel Paulista ready for the Arsenal first team?
When Wenger signed the Brazilian ace in January, he certainly didn’t bring him in to be a mere squad player fighting for a regular spot.
With Mertesacker’s age, a long-term replacement must always have been in mind, but the French boss needs to decide whether Gabriel is ready to nail down a spot now.
Despite his poor performance in midweek, the German World Cup winner has plenty of experience and his height is a useful tool when coming up against direct Premier League teams.
However, Gabriel’s performance on Sunday up against a powerful striker in Romelu Lukaku proved he has what it takes to mix it up physically, and he has shown that he deserves an extended run in the first team.