But despite the German international being ruled out with a minor ankle injury, Arsenal have a player who looks set to step into Mertesacker’s shoes not just for the short-term, but ultimately for years to come.
Gabriel Paulista may have only played seven matches for Arsenal since his January transfer from Spanish side Villarreal, but in that time he has proved to be a wonderful addition who looks set to develop a brilliant partnership with fellow centre-back Laurent Koscielny.
In fact, a stand-out performance against the current league leaders this weekend and Gabriel may force manager Arsene Wenger’s hand even earlier.
The 24-year-old will know the importance of the match not just for his club but also potentially for his own long-term future.
If he can help his side to victory and keep Chelsea’s formidable attacking talent at bay, it would be an emphatic statement to Wenger and the club’s supporters; proof he is ready to be a regular starter now.
Over a whole season Arsenal will need plenty of players in all positions, but when everyone is fit, Gabriel will want to be one of the first names on the team-sheet.
Shine against Chelsea, and he may get his wish sooner rather than later.