The centre of Arsenal’s defence has been an interesting position for the Gunners this season, with a lack of reliable options being overcome and Arsene Wenger now having three international-standard players to pick from.
The first half of the season saw the likes of Nacho Monreal and Mathieu Debuchy have to slot in at the heart of their side’s rearguard due to injuries to others.
However, since the signing of Brazilian Gabriel Paulista in January, the North London club have turned a problem area into a position of strength.
The Emirates Stadium outfit have been much more secure at the back since the turn of the year, with more confidence in the team’s defence due to competition for places at its core.
Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have formed a long-standing partnership at the back for the Gunners, but the future longevity of this pairing is seemingly in doubt.
While the giant German brings a wealth of experience, a physical presence and leadership to the team when he plays, the veteran is also lacking in a key component of the modern game – pace.
Too many times in the past has Koscielny or one of the Arsenal full-backs been forced to get Mertesacker out of a troublesome position due to a lack of acceleration.
As such, the signs are there that Gabriel and Koscielny could well be the ideal pairing for the North London club going forward.
With both still at an age where they could play together for a number of years and strike up a real understanding, the future is looking bright for Arsenal’s defence.
That said, Koscielny can be impulsive and makes questionable decisions at times, while the Brazilian is still getting to grips with a new club, culture, team and language.
There is a case to suggest that this pairing will be the club’s future first choice but for the time being it appears that Mertesacker has a significant role to play.
With Arsenal lacking players that have won major silverware, if the Gunners are to challenge for the Premier League title they will need more than just raw ability and potential.
Leaders and players with a strong mental fortitude will be needed, which is where Mertesacker comes in.
He is undoubtedly one of the leaders of an Arsenal squad that has ability but not yet delivered its full potential, while he has shown that he can play a considerable role in successful sides at the highest level.
Whilst Gabriel continues to ease his way into English football gradually, Mertesacker has an important role to play in continuing Arsenal’s development.
In the long run the Brazilian and Koscielny look like a robust and dynamic partnership, but for the time being the North London side need the experienced German to continue to act as a talisman for the Gunners.