German world-beaters on way back to bolster Arsenal’s growing confidence

The return of Per Mertesacker, Mesut Özil and Lukas Podolski will allow manager Arsene Wenger to rotate his squad for the coming games

Arsenal have started the season almost as well as they could have hoped – with two wins, one creditable draw and one trophy – and yet they are already poised for serious reinforcement.

Their three members of Germany’s World Cup-winning squad, who returned to training after everyone else, are nearing full readiness. Per Mertesacker, Mesut Özil and Lukas Podolski might not all play at Goodison Park this Saturday – it is not exactly a gentle return – but Arsenal will certainly  be strengthened by access to their defensive leader, their record signing and their purest finisher.

Those returning weltmeister will allow Arsène Wenger to make changes to a team that has not altered much across their three games so far this season. Jack Wilshere has played all three and, after a tiring 90 minutes against a feisty Besiktas side on Tuesday night, he revealed how much the squad – who will probably be without their injured captain Mikel Arteta for the next two weeks – would be improved by Mertesacker, Özil and Podolski.

 

“I think it will do,” Wilshere said, when asked if it would encourage his team-mates. “With Germans anyway they’ve got fantastic mentality, you saw that last year, they’re great characters on the training ground and great players as well. It will be good having them back and will make our squad stronger.”

The likeliest arrival in  Saturday’s team is Mertesacker, even if that means the dropping of the precocious Callum Chambers. It is easy to forget that Arsenal have started the season with only one available senior centre-back. Thomas Vermaelen, of course, has been sold to Barcelona and his replacement, to deputise for Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, is the same man many thought had merely come to replace Carl Jenkinson.

Tuesday’s game in Istanbul was, remarkably, only Chambers’ third at centre-back, since his summer move from Southampton, and was his debut in the Champions League. But he held his own against Demba Ba, reassuring Wenger – who admitted on Tuesday he was “worried” by a lack of defensive numbers – that he has a future in that position.

Promise is one thing, though, and experience quite another, and there is no doubt that Mertesacker will return to the team if fully fit this weekend. Mertesacker is almost 11 years older than Chambers, has a whole international career behind him – 104 caps, one World Cup winners’ medal – and has anchored Arsenal for the past few seasons, along with Koscielny.

Özil is less likely than Mertesacker to be thrown straight into the intensity of Everton away this weekend. Arsenal have used a 4-3-3 system so far this season, rather than last year’s 4-2-3-1, without a place for a traditional No 10. While Wenger could use Özil out wide, he might well prefer Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez in those roles this weekend. Next Wednesday, against Besiktas at home, would be a better opportunity to return to 4-2-3-1 and Özil’s perfect role.

Any worries that the arrival of Sanchez will somehow usurp Özil must be wide of the mark, though. One of Özil’s problems last season was a lack of runners away from him, but now Arsenal have the pace and strength of Sanchez, whether centrally or out wide, they guarantee more runs that Özil can spot.

This was meant to be the role Podolski played at Arsenal but the story of his two seasons at the Emirates is one of a player who can punish weaker teams but rarely succeeds against the best.

Arsenal’s system, whether 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, needs more work off the ball than Podolski can give them and so his return to the first team is likeliest for simpler fixtures, if his sharper team-mates are in need of a rest. He has two years left on his Arsenal contract and the lack of an extension is telling.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own