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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

Everton
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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Koscielny pairing delights Mertesacker

Per Mertesacker has hit back at the critics who wrote him off after completing two years unbeaten alongside Laurent Koscielny.

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The centre-back partners have now gone 32 games without losing a Premier League match in which they have played the whole match together.

The impressive run stretches back to a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United at the Emirates on Jan. 22, 2012.

And after a rocky start in English football, Mertesacker is happy to have proved the detractors wrong -- but admits it would mean nothing if no trophies were to come of it.

Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny's partnership has been one of the major factors in Arsenal's success this season.
Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny's partnership has been one of the major factors in Arsenal's success this season.

"We have shown a lot of people who criticised us over the past two-and-a-half years," the German told The Sun.

"We know each other much better now and we complement each other well. Laurent is more mobile and I have more height. It fits together perfectly because these days centre-backs are more than just tall defenders whose only job is to head away the long balls.

"Laurent is one of the quickest players I've ever partnered and he anticipates things so well, and we feed off each other's strengths and that is the main key to our success this season. The statistic seems unreal to me. When someone first told me about our record, it sounded very weird. It's a good statistic but now we have to build on that."

Of course, statistics do not always tell the full story. Mertesacker and Koscielny both started the 6-3 defeat at Manchester City, when Koscielny limped off just before half-time. The story was similar in the 3-1 opening day defeat to Aston Villa, when the Frenchman was shown a red card 25 minutes from time.

But it does not take away from the fact the partnership is key to Arsenal's record of having conceded just one goal in their last 11 games at the Emirates.

Meanwhile, manager Arsene Wenger is set for a defensive boost, with Thomas Vermaelen set to return from injury. The Belgian is expected to miss Saturday's Premier League trip to Liverpool, but is expected back for the FA Cup fifth-round clash with the same side eight days later.

Mertesacker added: "Whenever I speak about our central defenders I always include Thomas, because he is our captain who is vital and is coming back from a heavy injury. I am sure the boss will rotate us in the next couple of months and it's important that we are all fit so we can continue with our duties for the rest of the season."

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