Arsenal vice-captain Per Mertesacker has hailed the competition to secure a starting role in the heart of the Gunners' defence, with Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel Paulista and Calum Chambers pushing him to have a place in Arsene Wenger's line-up. The Germany international, nevertheless, believes that despite Chambers seeing his time restricted at the start of the campaign, he "has a great chance to develop as one of the top centre backs".
Mertesacker and Koscielny were the favourite duo for Wenger last season. But Gabriel's impressive performances during the first part of the campaign while covering the absences of the duo created a fresh selection dilemma for Wenger. The Germany international may see his time restricted as a result but believes competition is positive for the club.
"It's a good situation for us because every player gives something to the team," Mertesacker said to Arsenal Player. "It's not only about taking something or taking a place, for us it means more to play for Arsenal than just getting a spot in the line-up. It's a good situation for all of us.
"There will be small niggles, injuries and sicknesses so we have to find a way of playing with each other, no matter who's playing. That is the situation but it's a very respectful situation."
Gabriel adapting to the pace of the Premier League following his January arrival has left Chambers in a more peripheral role, having started one Premier League game this season. But Mertesacker believes the 20-year-old could fight for a role.
"He's a good guy and we challenge each other every single day in training," the vice-captain said. "That's what it's all about. He's eager to learn, he really fancies challenging every single centre back and that's something you need.
"When you step up as a young talent, you need to challenge the old lads. It's really good to have him so that we can improve. You never stop working, you never stop doing things because there's someone behind you - in a respectful way - who is giving absolutely everything in every single training session. That's what my feeling is. When he does that, he's got a great chance to develop as one of the top centre backs.