A few shaky performances have shown Arsenal fans that Per Mertesacker is not quite the all-conquering force he was last season. The towering German was truly excellent for the Gunners as they ended the 2013/14 campaign with the FA Cup and fourth place, with his commanding playing style and reading of the game vital to Arsene Wenger.
However, this term his turning circle has been larger than that of an 18-wheeler truck and his pace has… well… disappeared. His comments after the Gunners’ Champions League loss probably did little to endear him to Wenger earlier this week, and, maybe as a result, Gabriel Paulista is in the XI alongside Laurent Koscielny for the Newcastle clash.
Arsenal fans, on the whole, took the news well, with the Brazilian tipped to be a success over the 90 minutes…
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) March 21, 2015
Gabriel starts probably because Mertesacker’s comment about how far we are to winning CL
— MÖzil (@WillGooner49) March 21, 2015
Mertesacker being punished for his comments lol as long as Gabriel gets game time.
— K (@KigenAFC) March 21, 2015
No Özil, big shame. Gabriel comes in for Mertesacker. Hopefully he performs well again. Really should be winning this game. #NUFCvAFC
— David (@Davo_614) March 21, 2015
Not playing Mertesacker away from home is a surprise! But great to see Gabriel back and expect some high line stuff from Arsenal! #AFC
— Omair Javed (@omijaved) March 21, 2015
Wenger has dropped Mertesacker for his outspokenness Gabriel and Koscielny have a good opportunity to build a solid partnership
— Home of Fußball (@ExcitableExpert) March 21, 2015
Think that Gabriel coming back in shows when he’s fit he’s first choice over Mertesacker!
— Gunning4Gooners (@Gunning4Gooners) March 21, 2015