Arsenal vice-captain Per Mertesacker issued a stirring rallying cry in the aftermath of last night's frankly pathetic 3-1 defeat at the hands of Monaco, you have to wonder where that leader of men went during the 90 minutes that preceded his post-match interview.
‘Let's try to raise everyone's level at Monaco. Let's try to get in our rhythm there. We could have scored more than three goals last night and we can hurt them,’ he said.
What Arsenal and Mertesacker more principally could also have done is defend with some semblance of cohesion and awareness, because what was so galling about their Champions League capitulation is that the embarrassment was close to all of their own making.
Mertesacker has to carry the can
Wenger is often accused of putting together an Arsenal side which lacks leaders, warriors and men capable of managing difficult situations effectively when the going gets tough.
Mertesacker has a CV which suggests he'd possess all those qualities in abundance, trusted to be Wenger's chief organiser in a defence that contains pace to mask his deficiencies elsewhere.
Quite frankly though the second goal Arsenal conceded last night proved that he's not worthy of the armband of his prized position as Wenger's chief on-field lieutenant though, because he made the kind of rash decision that is always going to be exposed by clinical counter-attacking at the highest level of European football.
Regular figure of fun actually deserves criticism
Too often Mertesacker's ungainly style and lack of pace sees him wrongly ridiculed, he is capable of effective performances even if he lacks consistency. Last night's efforts against Monaco leave him no hiding place though, because he produced moments of madness that the term 'rush of blood to the head' was coined to describe perfectly.
Take Monaco's second goal, which saw Mertesacker decide he was the man to roam well inside Monaco's half to win back possession.
One look at the photo above shows you just how ridiculous that move truly was, with right-back Hector Bellerin high up the pitch and free man Anthony Marital making a dangerous run out wide.
Mertesacker went on that personal conquest in the 53rd minute of a two-legged tie, which still beggars belief the best part of 24 hours on. As he and Arsenal found out harshly, you can't win a Champions League tie in the first leg but you can sure as hell lose it.
The rot sets in
Arsenal were knocked for six after that second goal and strangely so was Mertesacker. Gone was the figure who hammered Mesut Ozil for not saluting the travelling fans at the Etihad 12 months ago, retreating into his shell as the entire side did until very late in the game.
A whole clutch of Arsenal stars have to carry the can for this shambles along with Mertesacker of course, but he's the one player above all others that is actually specifically tasked with helping the team manage games effectively, a job he's clearly not cut out for.
Arsenal have to find somebody better
Wenger is almost certainly staying at Arsenal until his contract expires in 2017, that's something Gunners fans are going to have to accept.
What they can't live with is seeing the same mistakes repeated for another three years, which means Arsenal simply have to look for a more trusted defensive linchpin than Mertesacker.
That's not to say he can't be a useful squad player, but quite frankly they are never going to win the Premier League with Mertesacker a guaranteed starter at centre-back.
Arsenal spent just over £11m on Gabriel Paulista as cover in January, don't be surprised if Wenger stars slowing phasing Mertesacker out of the side over the next 12 months.
Wenger has a deserved reputation as a man who gives his players every possible opportunity to shine, but painful defeats like the one 60,000 fans sat though last night have to act as a catalyst for change and Mertesacker has to be in the firing line.
Arsenal fans, do you think Mertesacker deserves his starting spot at the club? Was is performance so bad last night he should be dropped this weekend against Everton? Let us know by having your say in the comment box below!
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