Arsene Wenger explains why key man lost his place in the Arsenal side

PUBLISHED: 08:15 16 April 2016

Arsenal's Per Mertesacker (left) and Gabriel Paulista (Nigel French/PA Wire)

Arsenal's Per Mertesacker (left) and Gabriel Paulista (Nigel French/PA Wire)

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is keen to find a winning combination that he can stick with in the centre of defence.

The Gunners boss has been using Brazilian centre-half Gabriel alongside Laurent Koscielny in recent weeks but that pairing was woefully exposed in the air against West Ham last weekend.

Hammers striker Andy Carroll scored a hat-trick at Upton Park as Arsenal forfeited a 2-0 lead and eventually had to settle for a point with a 3-3 draw.

Gabriel was given the nod against West Ham as Wenger was expecting the pacy Diafra Sakho to lead the West Ham line. In fact, Mertesacker’s aerial presence would have made him better suited to take on Carroll.

Wenger admits that his team selection was affected by the opposition Arsenal were due to face, but he says he is keen to use an established pairing from now on to keep stability in his side.

“The reason [Mertesacker is not playing] is the competition for the same place with Gabriel and Koscielny and at the moment I have chosen them in front of him,” Wenger said. “It is a very tight choice; one has more pace, one has more experience and leadership qualities.

“It also depends sometimes on who we play. Last Saturday we expected to play against Sakho with more pace, not Carroll who is better in the air.

“It is not only about that but we bought Gabriel and we have to give him a chance as well to develop as a player. In training he has shown that he’s developing well so we give him a chance. The team functioned well at Everton, Barcelona and Watford so there was not an obvious reason to change.

“Ideally I want stability there except in some exceptional cases. But usually I like to play every week with the same central defenders.”

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