Alan Smith expects Per Mertesacker exclusion against Leicester City

Per Mertesacker

The German defender was absent for the recent win over Bournemouth.

Alan Smith is expecting Arsene Wenger to drop defender Per Mertesacker for the crunch clash with Leicester City on Sunday, he has told Sky Sports.

The Gunners take on Claudio Ranieri’s side at the Emirates, in what is set to be a huge decider on who will win the title come the end of the season.

Defence is one of the areas where Wenger has a decision to make, with him having to decide who will partner Lauren Koscielny in the heart of his defence.

Mertesacker has not featured since being sent off in the loss to Chelsea, and Smith expects that to remain the case for the game against the Foxes, while also anticipating a return for midfielder Francis Coquelin.

"Arsenal have to defend properly, and I would guess Wenger will stick with Gabriel next to [Laurent] Koscielny,” he told Sky Sports.

“Gabriel has more pace than Mertesacker and they have to deal with pace.

"I'd expect to see Coquelin back in the holding midfield position too. He gives the side so much more stability in front of the back four, and they are getting back to full strength."

The point about the pace Leicester possess is certainly a crucial one from Smith.

Mertesacker’s biggest weakness is arguably his lack of pace, with the sending off against Chelsea demonstrating that clearly.

Putting him in against the likes of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez could be a disaster, with them sure to fancy their chances in a one-on-one situation.

Wenger will be more than aware of that as well, and keeping Mertesacker on the bench seems like a certainty in that regard.

Register for ARSENAL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch