It is often said that football fans love to find an easily targeted scapegoat for their team’s failures. Englishmen will remember recently, of supporters getting on manager Fabio Capello’s back instantly after England’s failure in the World Cup of 2010. There is some truth in that.
After all, at Arsenal, this is all too common – from the gut-wrenching 1995 Nayim fiasco (where David Seaman took the bulk of the criticism) or the horrifying 2005 Wayne Rooney “soft penalty” decision (the referee took all the flak), to the more recent Carling Cup Final when Koscielny and Szczesny took headlines – the pair is still blamed for Arsenal’s failure to win a trophy in these few years.
In recent matches, Per Mertesacker has been that scapegoat for Arsenal. His defensive errors against Norwich just days ago and his lapse of concentration against Chelsea several weeks ago are often highlighted and rather liberally used against him and Arsenal’s “defence” as a whole.
Certainly, he has made blunders which have been rather costly but we have to draw the line there. He has a great number of caps for the German national team and he has unquestionably excellent defending ability. Tellingly, Arsenal have shipped much fewer goals with him at the back. This is owed not only to, say, Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen “improving” the defence, but also to Mertesacker’s presence at the back.
As a defender, a recently transferred one at that, Mertesacker’s mistakes will only be scrutinised and thoroughly criticised by the media. Arsenal fans, too, would find it easy to jump on the bandwagon.
How many defenders started off perfectly and integrated immediately into the English game? There is much more to come from the German defender. We have only seen the big lad in action for a couple of months.
As such, I think that judgment of the Big Friendly German should be suspended until he really finds his feet in England. As Arsenal fans, it is of paramount importance that Arsenal supporters get off his back, give him a break and let him show us and the world his true quality as a footballer – that which I am certain is superb – he has all the attributes to shine and with time, he will come good.