Mertesacker: True leader on the field – with or without the captain’s armband
Lukas Podolski may have had a great international scoring record for Germany. Mesut Ozil may have been the big-money, glory signing to set the pulses running, but most Arsenal fans will probably agree that the best German signing by Arsene Wenger was centre back Per Mertesacker. Before the player arrived, it seemed that Thomas Vermaelen had registered a long term ownership of the centre back and defensive organiser of the team, now however, a Gunners back four without the giant German looks frail and so much weaker.
Still only 29, Mertesacker arrived at the Emirates following a five year spell at Werder Bremen in 2011. His ungainly appearance led many to believe that here was a player likely to be left looking like Bambi on ice by the nimbler, fleet-footed strikers that abound in the Premier League. Very quickly however, Mertesacker demonstrated the guile and game knowledge that had led his country to dive him 95 caps. He was rarely exposed by his undoubted lack of pace, and his organisational ability quickly became an indispensable quality to Wenger’s back four.
It is however not only this ability that endears him to both manager and fans. After the somewhat humiliating defeat at Eastlands earlier this season, it was the German who led the Arsenal players across to applaud the Gunners’ fans who had stood by their time throughout the experience. It was also the centre back who spotted Ozil skulking away towards the dressing room without joining in with the appreciation, and then publicly rebuked him for his misdemeanour.
Although Miguel Arteta still remains the player that leads out the team, calls heads or tails with the referee and chooses ends, once the whistle goes, Arsenal’s true leader on the pitch is clear for all to discern.
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