Per Mertesacker has praised the influence of fellow new boy Mikel Arteta and revealed his admiration dates back to his days at Werder Bremen when he played the Spaniard in a pre-season friendly.
Both men arrived at the Gunners on transfer deadline day and have each played a part in reviving the club’s fortunes in the last three months. Speaking to Arsenal.com about the midfielder, who is preparing to face his old club tomorrow, the German stated:
“I noticed him in the first match we played against Everton [with Werder Bremen]. He is so experienced, it is unbelievable to have him in the squad.
“He gives a lot of advice to the young players, and to me as well. He is very important for the squad. He has done well in the last few games and hopefully he can do that in the future too. I think he can.”
Responding to suggestions that Arteta’s experience in front of the defence has been integral to an improvement at the back, Mertesacker was eager to stress the importance of the collective over the individual.
“It’s important that the whole team is defending, like we have done in the last few months. I think that’s the best way to have a compact defence, that’s the first thing for success.”
Without Bacary Sagna, Carl Jenkinson, Kieran Gibbs and Andre Santos for the next few weeks, Mertesacker’s position in the centre of defence looks unlikely to be challenged. Despite Johan Djourou and Thomas Vermaelen being worthy candidates to fulfil the wide duties, Mertesacker noted that the squad was being stretched to the limit.
“We need more full-backs I think!” he joked. “It’s not good for the squad if so many full-backs are injured, but what can I say? We have to manage the situation. We have had some bad situations with injuries in the last month but we managed quite well.”