By Matt Farr
Football Insider names the Arsenal flop of the year for 2016.
German centre-back Per Mertesacker is Arsenal’s biggest flop in a year where the Gunners failed to lift any silverware.
The ageing defender has been an important defensive asset for the club in recent years, but his ability to perform at the highest-level has begun to come into question.
Mertesacker has missed the entire first-half of the season with a knee injury, and is expected to make his return in January, having returned to light training with the club.
However, despite being named club captain at the start of the season, Mertesacker faces a major struggle to win his place back in the Arsenal first-team.
Laurent Koscielny has formed a superb centre-back partnership with summer signing Shkodran Mustafi, and the two look likely to form the base of Arsenal’s defence for years to come.
Mustafi is currently out injured, throwing Gabriel Paulista into the heart of the defence, but Mustafi is expected to return around the same time as Mertesacker.
Mertesacker’s height and strength has proven invaluable over the years, but his lack of pace is the main concern for an Arsenal defence up against some of Europe’s quickest attackers in the Premier League and Champions League.
Over the last year, his total lack of pace has been exploited on many occasions and his inconsistency to perform to the best of his ability has cost him a role in the first-team. Through the emergence of Mustafi, he is no longer Arsenal’s reliable man at the back.
Meanwhile, the presence of youngster Rob Holding will send alarm bells ringing. Fans are calling for the former Bolton defender to get more action for the Gunners to aid in his development, and while he has rarely featured in Arsenal’s first-team, even he looks a more likely proposition to play than Mertesacker does.
The former German international is expected to feature again for Arsenal, because injuries are always likely in the Arsenal camp, however, you can’t help but feel that his days at the Emirates are numbered.
His contract expires at the end of the season, and there will be little indication in still he starts playing again that Arsene Wenger will want to renew his current deal.
In other Arsenal news, Gary Neville claims he wants Arsenal to win the league if Manchester United fail to do so.