Gabriel's injury could offer Mertesacker a chance of immediate redemption

Per Mertesacker

Mertesacker seems to have carried the can for a recent poor Arsenal performance in Europe

Arsenal have lost central defender Gabriel Paulista to a hamstring injury for a period of three weeks after being substituted during the 2-1 win over Queens Park Rangers in midweek.

Gabriel was brought into the side for the 2-0 win over Everton last weekend, immediately after Arsenal's 3-1 defeat to Monaco in the Champions League, where Per Mertesacker came in for a lot of criticism. 

Though the German started at Loftus Road in midweek, the decision to draft Gabriel into the side was seen as a reaction from Arsene Wenger for Mertesacker's poor display against Monaco, while Laurent Koscielny was given a breather.

Mertesacker v Monaco:

  PositionTeamWon Tackle GAMEError Lead To ShotDuel Won GAMEPoss Lost AllAppearancesMins Played
Per Mertesacker DF Arsenal 1 0 4 2 1 90

Mertesacker v QPR:

  PositionTeamWon Tackle GAMEError Lead To ShotDuel Won GAMEPoss Lost AllAppearancesMins Played
Per Mertesacker DF Arsenal 0 0 5 7 1 90

If you look at the statistics, you would probably see there is little reason for optimism. However, there is one thing that needs to be remembered is that Arsenal were probably expected to play on the front foot more against Monaco at home rather than away to QPR, where they were maybe a little more content to invite pressure then counter-attack, hence the higher loss of possession from the German.

But it does reflect that Mertesacker needs a lot more work off the ball in both instances. His positioning wasn't the best in his display against Monaco - and though not acknowledged in the statistics, more mature decision making in the build-up to Dimitar Berbatov's strike could have prevented the former Tottenham and Manchester United man finding the target. 

It's a case of awareness for Mertesacker more than anything. If he impresses during this spell that's coming up for Arsenal, he could have gone a long way for atoning for his errors. 

A crucial cup tie against Manchester United is one they need to win to keep their hopes of silverware alive [barring an unlikely turnaround in Monaco], while the league fixtures are taking on great significance with tricky looking games against West Ham and Newcastle. If he impresses during that spell, it is unlikely Wenger will make a change for the game against Liverpool after the international break. It's a massive spell for the German to restore some faith that may have been lost.

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