By Arsenal correspondent Tony Hughes
Per Mertesacker is facing the axe for Arsenal’s top-of-the-table showdown against Leicester on Sunday, Football Insider sources understand.
Arsene Wenger is ready to pair first-choice centre-back Laurent Koscielny with young Brazilian Gabriel.
An Arsenal source has told Football Insider that the coaching staff believe Gabriel is better able to combat the speed of Leicester’s counter-attacks, led by the pacy Jamie Vardy.
Mertesacker has been overlooked for the last two Premier League matches against Bournemouth and Southampton after serving a one-match suspension for the red card he received in the 1-0 defeat to Chelsea last month.
Nevertheless, the German tends to be selected for the key matches and has started 18 of the Gunners’ 25 Premier League matches this season.
Shock league leaders Leicester travel to Emirates Stadium five points clear of the Londoners and for a game that will have a key bearing on the title race.
Wenger has admitted he is putting together a master plan to nullify the threat of Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, the only player in the Premier League to have reached double figures for goals and assists this season.
Speaking on Friday morning, he said: “It’s difficult to go into individual assessment. Mertesacker is a great leader, very respected in our dressing room.
“But I have three centre backs and I adapt, on form, on opponents, on their strengths.”
Three-times Premier League winner Wenger also kicked-off the title race mind games ahead of Sunday’s clash against the unexpected leaders.
“I believe they are still in a position where they think where they are, they have nothing to lose,” said Wenger.
“But once you are top of the league, you can also think about losing what you have. That is where the nerves come in a little bit. I do not know how they will respond to that.
“The pressure is on us as well, of course. I don’t deny that but I take that in a very positive way and as an opportunity to show how strong we are.”