Arsenal’s big German Per Mertesacker found himself in the unusual position of watching the game against Everton yesterday from the subs bench.
The central defender was dropped by Arsene Wenger with January signing Gabriel stepping into the back four, in a change that would have left some fans asking why it didn’t happen sooner.
Mertesacker was punished for the defensive implosion of the side in the Champions League game against Monaco last week and Gabriel excelled with the opportunity he was given by his manager.
He’s quicker off the mark than Mertesacker, quicker on the turn and the Gunners don’t seem to lose anything in terms of physical presence and strength from the Brazilian defender.
Mertesacker is now under real pressure to try and get his place back in the team.
Gabriel hasn’t been overplayed in the recent past, so unless he picks up an injury in training, he should retain his place in the team for the game at QPR.
If he plays well in that game, he could start in the FA Cup this weekend against Manchester United.
Mertesacker could be a safe bet to return for that game because of his experience, but Gabriel playing alongside Laurent Koscielny has the makings of a partnership which could be very successful for the Gunners.
So how does Mertesacker force his way back in?
All he can do is be professional in training and go about his defensive and club duties in the right manner.
At some point, Wenger will want the benefit of the experience he provides and when he comes back into the team, he has to show why he’s the best bet for the middle of the club’s defence.
It’s a small improvement on a horror show from last week. There’s still a long way to go.