Per Mertesacker believes that Arsenal were denied the Premier League title this season by a World Cup hangover.
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The defender, who was part of the German side which won the tournament last summer, blames the extra games for our inconsistent start to the season, which allowed Chelsea to build-up and ultimately untouchable lead at the top.
In quotes covered by the Daily Mirror, the 30-year-old explained that he was left physically and mentally exhausted for the first six months of the season, while he believes teammates Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski – now on loan at Inter Milan – endured similar trauma.
“The first months, in particular, were quite difficult to come back and to come down and to forget that, forget that feeling of being World Cup champion,” he explained.
“That’s what you need to have, you need to forget about that, to come down a bit, to calm down and to restart. That took nearly half a year to realise that.
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“Most of the players got injured, I avoided that but didn’t play at my best, but that was because I hadn’t experienced this feeling before. I didn’t know how to handle the situation. I tried to forget about that, about the World Cup.
“At one point I was happy not to get an injury, but on the other hand it was very difficult to find the form and the fitness, because we hadn’t had that pre-season and the season was already being played when we just started. It was very strange.
“Mentally it effects your body as well you know. You can’t say one or the other. It was just the whole thing. Without pre-season, physically as well to come back to compete at Premier League level.”
Thankfully, Mertesacker believes that regular yoga sessions have helped him overcome his problems, with his performances much improved during the second-half of the season.
We won nine straight games during the closing weeks of the season, as we sewed up third place and a spot in the Champions League group stages, and with an FA Cup final meeting with Aston Villa to come, Mertesacker has the chance to end his lengthy campaign with another piece of silverware.
“I knew maybe there would be some criticism to form, but I didn’t get injured so I tried to prepare even more – doing more yoga, more treatment, more things like that to come to a certain level where I can compete again. From my experience, it took half a year.
“It’s not a home game, you can’t compare it to a Premier League game. It’s difficult. We’ve been through it last season, it can be an advantage. Just be aware that anything can happen that day. If we turn up with a good performance at Wembley then it’s difficult to stop us.”