Arsene Wenger is reportedly agonising over a selection dilemma ahead of this Sunday’s crucial fixture against Leicester City.
Arsenal host Claudio Ranieri’s table-toppers this weekend with Gabriel hoping to keep his place alongside Laurent Koscielny at the heart of the defence.
World Cup winner Per Mertesacker has been a mainstay in the Gunners’ starting XI since his arrival from Werder Bremen in the summer of 2011; however, according to the Daily Mail, Wenger is said to be concerned about the German’s lack of mobility against Jamie Vardy.
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Gabriel has started Arsenal’s last three matches in all competitions helping the Gunners to two clean sheets in vital league games, but the 25-year-old Brazilian remains inexperienced in games of this magnitude.
Mertesacker, in comparison, is a veteran of 104 international caps with plenty of experience in must-win games but the German’s lack of speed could be a real problem.
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Leicester striker Vardy has been the standout player of the season scoring 18 league goals already, with his ability to run in behind defences proving to be a constant thorn in the side of the opposition.
Playmaker Riyad Mahrez's humiliation of veteran centre-back Martin Demichelis last Saturday will also not have escaped Wenger's watch.
Mertesacker’s red card for tackling Diego Costa as the last man in last month’s 1-0 defeat to Chelsea was pivotal in Arsenal losing ground in the title race, and Wenger will be fully aware that Vardy would target the German.
As obscure as this sounds when describing such an experienced professional, Mertesacker cannot be risked for this fixture.
The German was dropped by international coach Joachim Low for the knock-out stages of the 2014 World Cup and there remain doubts about the defender at the highest level.
Leicester will approach Sunday’s fixture full of confidence and Wenger cannot afford to begin the game with such a lack of pace against Vardy and co.
The England striker left Mertesacker for dead when scoring his superb goal in the return fixture earlier this season and considering Leicester's improved defensive record, Arsenal cannot allow history to repeat itself.
Gabriel has performed strongly in recent games and should be given the nod once more.
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