Per Mertesacker says he has a ‘special relationship’ with Arsene Wenger claiming that even in the darkest hours of his tough first year at Arsenal he knew he could count on the Frenchman’s backing.
Rewarded with the club’s vice captaincy this summer and a having signed a new contract in March that keeps him at the Emirates until 2017, the World Cup winner has consolidated his credentials as one of the Gunners most influential personalities.
Recently retired from international duty to focus on his club career, the 29-year-old told Sport Bild (translated by ESPN.co.uk) that he owes a great deal to both the club and his manager.
“I owe a lot to the club after they have given me such a lengthy contract extension. It shows how satisfied Arsene Wenger is with me. Usually, he’d only hand one-year-deals to 30-year-olds, but my contract runs until 2017, and I’ll be nearly 33 then.
“As a player you always want to play a part in the dressing room,” he continued. “But it’s not that easy, as I learned during my first season. In England it’s easy to get caught in the line for fire when you commit mistakes. When rumours came up that I would not make it at Arsenal, I always knew that I would not be dropped.
“Arsene Wenger placed his trust in me right from the beginning and always stood by me. He always said: ‘You’ll make it!’ We have a special relationship, and that developed even further when I was named vice-captain. It’s been three years since my transfer, but it’s not common that you win his trust that fast.
“Back then, it was a huge step for me. It feels like a second life: Language, culture, a new sporting challenge. I’ve become a new person through the transfer.”
Mertesacker also tipped his German compatriots Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski to shine for the Gunners this season before revealing boss Wenger has a new fire in his belly after May’s FA Cup triumph.
“Mesut is an incredibly good footballer; a steady source of unrest for opponents. He’ll continue to develop here, the Premier League hasn’t seen the best of him yet.
“We have many players who dribble and can carry the ball towards goal, but we have nobody like Poldi who can smash the ball into the top corner from 25 metres.
“After our FA Cup win in May — our first title in nine years — Wenger’s become even hungrier to build something here, and set the pace with Arsenal.
“He’s an institution, and has built up so much. That’s why the club is sitting pretty. And through extending his contract three-and-a-half months ago, he’s shown his critics that he can continue to develop a team.”