Per Mertesacker, the big German, was an instant hit at Arsenal ever since his transfer to the club. He and Laurent Koscielny formed a strong partnership in the centre of the defence, so strong that he displaced club captain Thomas Vermaelen from the starting lineup. Now, with the transfer of Vermaelen to Spanish giants Barcelona, Mertesacker is a guaranteed starter every week.
The German also showed his defensive prowess in the national side, helping Germany lift the World Cup title this year in Brazil. After winning football’s most prestigious prize however, the big man decided to hang up his international boots and retire. Now, in an interview with arsenal.com, Per Mertesacker has revealed that he was thinking of Arsenal when he decided to retire, and he wants to devote his time to winning more trophies at the club.
I reflected and last season was very tough. This season won’t be less intense so I needed a chance to rest and refuel. I want to push forward with the club now to show I can still improve.
I realised over the last few years that the club really needs me and that was a big motivation to win something with them and then with Germany. Now I’m really focused to do even more with Arsenal.
There’s even more respect and support here than I expected when I signed. This club has topped everything and I’m really proud to be part of it, especially after learning more about the fans and its history.
As vice-captain I feel more responsibility for my work here and I want to achieve more in my next three years with Arsenal. One chapter has closed and the other one has opened even more, that’s how it feels for me.
The strong centre back is a crucial component of our side and will surely have a part to play in any successes we may have. However, Mertesacker himself has one eye on the future. He knows that his career is in its latter stages, and thus wants to encourage and groom the next generation of Arsenal stars to take his place.
He spoke in particular of Hector Bellerin, the young Spanish full back who has made a couple of appearances for the first team this season. The youngster looks a certainty to start next weekend against Hull City as well, with Nacho Monreal injured and Calum Chambers suspended.
Bellerin has yet to feature in the Premier League for the North London club, but Mertesacker stated that he will always get the support of the senior members of the squad. The German World Cup winner advised Bellerin and other young players of the Arsenal squad to always come to him and other senior players for help and suggestions.
He’s a good addition to our squad and he can take his chance with Mathieu injured and Calum suspended. He’s got some great chances and he has to take them now because you never know what will happen in football.
The most vital part is good communication on the pitch – they have to talk to me if there’s someone in my back. I have to encourage them to speak to me even though I’m 30 and have a lot of international caps. They have to be brave and be themselves.
He needs to talk as well and that’s what I demand from him. He listens a lot and he’s a good guy, which gives him a good chance to be a regular pro at Arsenal.
With someone as experienced as Mertesacker to guide the youngsters of the team, the Arsenal youth like Bellerin are sure to become stars in their own right.