Per Mertesacker says he enjoyed the atmosphere at the Emirates as Arsenal beat Cologne in the Europa League but admits the delayed kick-off and worries about crowd safety led to concerns about the well-being of his family.
Arsene Wenger’s players spent an extra hour in the dressing room before undertaking their pre-game warm-up and looked sluggish when the game finally got underway. It wasn’t until a half time change in formation that they found fluidity in the final third, scoring three goals to dampen the enthusiasm of the visiting hordes.
“It [the delay] was difficult to handle because we were already in the dressing room and then we found out that the kick-off was delayed by an hour,” he told Arsenal.com.
“It is frustrating, and you want to find out if you are actually going to play or not. That was in doubt.
“We wanted desperately to play – but of course the safety of all supporters is the most important thing.
“I just wanted to make sure my family was OK, which they were. Because some people said to tell them to just stay at home, because there were so many people outside the stadium. But in the end we were happy to play and finish the game.”
On the match itself, he added: “It was quite fun to play in front of two crowds battling each other, in a way.
“It felt good to be part of that, and especially when we were 1-0 down, to get back, for the fans to get back into the game with us scoring two. We finally found our rhythm, and the fans as well were happy.”