Arsene Wenger pondering a recall for Per Mertesacker ahead of Palace clash
Published 16/04/2016 | 13:11
Arsene Wenger is considering recalling Per Mertesacker for Sunday's Barclays Premier League fixture with Crystal Palace in an attempt to defend against Emmanuel Adebayor's aerial threat.
Last week's disappointing 3-3 draw at West Ham, in which Andy Carroll scored a hat-trick after Arsenal built a two-goal lead, owed much to the lack of authority displayed by present first-choice central defenders Gabriel Paulista and Laurent Koscielny.
Wenger is already expected to select Petr Cech in goal in place of David Ospina, and despite Mertesacker having not played since last month's FA Cup defeat by Watford and the manager's desire to nurture Gabriel, the German could return to face what Wenger described as Palace's "big offensive force".
"(We've been working on) heading the ball," said Wenger, 66. "I haven't decided yet on Mertesacker. We still have (time). We'll see.
"The reason (he hasn't played) is the competition for the same place with Gabriel and Koscielny and at the moment I've chosen them in front of him.
"It's a very tight choice: one (Gabriel) has more pace, one (Mertesacker) has more experience, more leadership qualities, so it depends sometimes against who we play.
"We have to give (Gabriel) a chance to develop as a player, and in training he has shown signs of developing well so I gave him a chance."
Palace manager Alan Pardew spoke of his belief that Adebayor, who played for Arsenal for three-and-a-half years until 2009, and fellow striker Connor Wickham can "terrorise defences" with their "size, power and pace".
Adebayor, having scored on two of his past three appearances at the Emirates Stadium since his departure, is set to start in the absence of the injured Dwight Gayle in a match that could provide the long-serving Wenger with his 500th Premier League victory.
The Togo striker has been an unpopular figure among the club's fans since provoking them with a celebration after scoring for Manchester City shortly after he was sold.
Wenger also has history with Pardew, given the two clashed on the touchline in November 2006, and asked if he believed they have since mellowed, he replied: "Maybe. I believe that the alerts are still there sometimes, but the distance between the two managers is quite good.
"You have to sprint nearly to have a go at each other."
Aaron Ramsey could also start for Arsenal having returned from a month out as a substitute at West Ham, though fellow midfielders Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky remain short of match fitness despite featuring for the club's under-21s.