Sunday, 2 June 2013

Per Mertesacker should have been included in the POTY list


By Joss Bennett - Follow him on Twitter

This season, Arsenal have conceded 12 fewer goals than the 2011/12 season, boasting the second best defence in the league statistically having conceded 37 goals (only behind Manchester City’s 34). The team also lost three fewer league games (but drew three more) and remained unbeaten in the last 11 games of the season in all competitions (since the 2-1 defeat by Tottenham)*.

This defensive improvement is in no small part down to the constantly improving Laurent Koscielny, whose efforts were rewarded when he won second place in the Player of the Year awards on Arsenal.com. However, arguably just as important in Arsenal’s success at the back this year has been Per Mertesacker, whose efforts have been seriously underappreciated since his arrival at the club for £8m two summers ago.

Together, the two central defenders were unbeaten in the 15 league games they started together and lost only one – against eventual Champions League winners Bayern Munich – in the 21 games they played together in all competitions. In these 21 games, the duo conceded just 0.9 goals per game**.

However, Mertesacker’s individual stats prove to be almost as impressive. Having played 13 more league games, Mertesacker’s 34 tackles this season is double what he achieved last season (still a fairly low average of one per game) while he also made 12 more interceptions this year***.

Consistency is clearly the German’s best attribute, further shown by the fact he has maintained the same average for blocked shots this season (0.6 per game) and made more than double that (1.5 per game) in his six Champions League appearances. His passing statistics have also remained consistently high, making slightly less passes per game (50.1 compared to 52 in the league last season) but increasing his success rate to a superb 91.5%, making him the joint-top passer alongside Mikel Arteta***.

As the defender has grown into life at Arsenal and in the Premier League, he has become more and more useful – scoring three important goals this season (including two against Spurs) as well as his solid defensive performances.

There still remain doubts over the German’s pace and ability to handle world-class strikers but there is no defender in the world without problems of their own, and as long as confidence keeps growing, clean sheets will be kept and that is what ultimately wins games.

The upcoming pre-season will be a huge one for Mertesacker, who knows that despite taking Thomas Vermaelen’s place in the team towards the backend of last season, the captain will not settle for a place on the bench.  Nevertheless, the ‘BFG’ has put himself in good stead and all he can do is keep performing as well as he has been.

*Statistics from premierleague.com
**Statistics from arsenal.com
***Statistics from whoscored.com




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