New signing Per Mertesacker expects Sunday’s derby against Tottenham will be like no other match he has played in before, and is expecting a brutual encounter between the two bitter north London rivals at White Hart Lane this weekend.
Mertesacker has become a regular in the heart of the Arsenal defence, primarily partnering Laurent Koscielny since completing his £10 million move from Werder Bremen last month, whose closest rivalry was with Hamburg – a club 60 miles away.
This is my first special game for Arsenal. A lot of people have been telling me about it, how massive it is, and what a special experience it is and I am looking forward to it.
It is an especially important game for Arsenal and for me. There is nothing similar to it in Germany. You cannot compare Bremen against Hamburg because they are not quite in the same city, so the London derby is bigger.’
The German international has revealed he would have moved to Emirates Stadium last summer if the move had not been blocked by his former employers:
I only knew about Arsenal’s interest three days before I moved,” Mertesacker added. “Then Arsene Wenger called my agent and said that ‘perhaps you can be my man’ or something like that.
I had to do what he wanted because, one year before, he asked for me and the manager of Werder Bremen didn’t let me go and I wanted to. I had to do it very quickly but that was kind of my wish to go to the English league a couple of years ago.
It is totally different here, especially in training. There are more passing sessions every day compared to other clubs. There are the little things – games every four days, the Champions League as well, which is a great challenge for me and the club, and a very young team with potential.
We have good players who are not in the team and are on their way to fitness. When everybody gets fit we will have a great team. We want to go through the Champions League, we want to go up the Premier League. We have great targets to come.
I certainly wish that we had bought Mertesacker last season, maybe then Squillaci may not have come and he would of formed a successful partnership with Koscielny earlier. Like Mertesacker said though, this will be an intense match as Arsenal haven’t been this weak in years so Spurs are especially keen to leapfrog us in the title race this season. With Mertesacker’s impressive performances over the past week, the defence is finally looking more solid. Bring on Spurs!
Match Preview to follow today…