|Desc||Per Mertesacker might be the slowest player on this list. However, he’s also one of the smartest. Mertesacker’s speed of thought makes up his slowness of foot. After a shaky start, he is emerging as a centre-half in the great Arsenal tradition|
|Club as Player||Arsenal FC|
2017 07 15 Retrieve
[Per Mertesacker reveals the inspiration behind his unlikely overhead kick during a pre-season match against Sydney FC] In Germany, we had a goalscorer, his name was Gerd Muller. He scored like that 80 per cent of the time, always with his back to the goal. He was my role model in that situation
2017 08 19 Retrieve
[Per Mertesacker talks about life in London] That’s what I love, getting the tube, not getting any recognition, trying to be as normal as possible. Sometimes you get a big Arsenal fan and they tell you they have a season ticket or want to have a chat, which is fine. Some want a selfie, but sometimes I just want to say: ‘Let’s just shake hands. It means more than a picture’. But not a lot of guys ever think that way!
2019 05 30 Retrieve
[Per Mertesacker says Tottenham have been urged to stick with the side that has allowed them to ‘over-perform’ in the Champions League] It was definitely thanks to the whole team that they reached the final. Suddenly you had Heung-min Son being on fire when Harry Kane was out. He scored a lot of goals. Then there was Lucas Moura scoring a hat-trick [against Ajax in the semi-finals]. They gave players space for development and they took the next step. Now Harry Kane comes back and the coach has to ask himself what to do. It really is a difficult decision. I would keep the things which have worked out in the last games and change not too much as the players have deserved it.
[Pressed further on whether he would snub Harry Kane in his starting XI] Yes… If I were the coach I would do that. Yes, I think it will be a huge task for Tottenham to win against Liverpool. Because they learnt a lot last year and that often leads to a situation you can capitalise on the next year. So I hope Tottenham come well prepared. They have to use their chances, especially at the beginning of the game. I think Tottenham can only win if they have a good start, if they are able to put pressure on Liverpool, get an early lead and play using counter-attacks. Then I see a chance for Tottenham. Apart from that I see Liverpool being the favourites
[He has been impressed by the development of Arsenal’s arch-rivals] I think it took some time, but Pochettino brought a new culture to the whole club. To all different areas. That took some time as I said, but the willingness to run, the clarity on how to play with the ball, which players are needed and which would best fit the club. That’s an ideal model, something you look at. Which players have been signed and how they have been integrated into the system. I think he has a very close connection to the players. They know it’s intensive and they can’t take shortcuts with this guy. That does not work. Even if I play I have to go to the training ground the next day and make some runs. It’s not a happy-go-lucky-culture, not a loose culture. He gets the best out of his players.
He developed that in the recent years. That’s a culture based on work, combined with his great knowledge of the game. He gained that in the years when he played in Spain and France. There, he gained this appreciation for detail and his extensive football knowledge, not only the culture and the importance of having a hard-working group. It’s about what goals you want to reach on the football pitch. He brought consistency to Tottenham. He saw the team can take another step forward, the players can improve again. They’ve massively over-performed for years, especially when you see the budget they have. In contrast to Arsenal, to Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea. They have always over-performed with the budget they had. These performances are the most valuable
2019 09 10 Retrieve
[Mertesacker assesses Arsene Wenger’s methods] When we lost one game, we often lost a few in a row. We could show off our class across six FA Cup games, but 38 League matches in 10 months were a different matter. We simply lacked the consistency all top teams need. You couldn’t win the League on eight defeats a year. Arsene Wenger was always the kind of manager whose belief in his team’s qualities was steady as a rock and who approached matters with never-ending patience. He didn’t lose his nerve during losing streaks, either. He stuck with his convictions and his players, no matter how strong the wind was blowing. It was his greatest strength.
Wondering whether it was also his greatest weakness and whether he was he too lenient with us is, in my opinion, a little too simplistic. If the fans had got their way, there would have been five new top signings every year. ‘Spend some f***ing money!’ they would chorus from the stands after defeats. But Wenger trusted the players he had. I never met another manager who believed more strongly in his squad’s ability
First and foremost, Wenger saw us as human beings and he had a lot of faith in us, which is why he stood by us. Ultimately, we as players need to ask ourselves whether we did everything possible to justify his trust. Did we implement his instructions perfectly? Were we pulling together? Did we learn from our mistakes? No. Wenger has won three Premier League titles, which is proof enough of his standing as a manager. The team, on the other hand, had fallen short since 2004
2019 09 11 Retrieve
[Per Mertesacker says David Luiz will learn from the mistakes he has made early in his Arsenal career] I think he will learn from his mistakes on the pitch, but he is very comfortable being at Arsenal. That’s what I have been seeing. So we are happy to have him. He brings something different to the table right now. So I think he is able to learn and excel his level of being an Arsenal player
[Lacazette and Aubameyang scored to help Arsenal fight back from 2-0 down to claim a draw at home, but Mertesacker feels the Gunners may need a tactical rethink] I think we have a lack of balance right now, where you feel like, OK we have amazing strikers but they as well need to understand that we need to have a certain compactness. It’s not only about our three strikers providing an offensive threat. It is about these front three as well, leading the first front line as being a defensive unit. So I think we need to be cautious of that. No matter how much striking power you have got, you need to have a sense of defensive compactness from everyone
2019 09 12 Retrieve
[Per Mertesacker is sure that genius Mesut Ozil can still make an impact at the club] Yeah [I understand Arsenal fans’ frustrations with Ozil] because probably they don’t understand him. I know how to take him and how to try to pinch him when needed. But ultimately it has to come from him if he wants to go to the next level. But he can deliver. He loves playing football, it doesn’t come across so often. He is a genius in terms of what he can produce with the ball and you can see that in every training session. Once he gets the ball, he’s rested. He thinks he plays in the park. He can deliver that ball that no one else can deliver. He has got that magical sense. He wants to be OK with everyone. He is not the kind of guy who approaches people and says: ‘You need to do this, that and that’. He’s a different character and sometimes I struggled with that. Sometimes I was really p**d with him for days and weeks
[Mertesacker admits that the relationship with the club’s fans deteriorated under Arsene Wenger and expressed his regret that he and his team-mates could not perform well enough] I think that connection got lost, definitely. It was difficult. You feel almost responsible. Responsible for the lack of success and probably that Wenger might have to leave at some stage because we’re not delivering what everyone wants. I always felt really, really bad when a manager was sacked.
I was fortunate to play under Thomas Schaaf at Bremen. And I played for Arsene Wenger. So I always felt, let’s say more responsible than others towards the manager and his succession. And you could almost feel that day would come one day, because the expectations were different - we needed to come back and compete for Premier League titles, not for FA Cups. So that shift, you could almost feel it was coming. You really want to build the best connection between players and fans, so everyone feels this is the best club. A culture where everyone trusts each other, that we can be world class again
2019 09 12b Retrieve
[Arsenal hero Per Mertesacker admits he would get p**d off at Mesut Ozil over his attitude]</b> First of all [Ozil] loves playing football. It doesn’t come across so often. He is a genius in terms of what he can produce with the ball, you can see that in every training session. Once he gets the ball, he’s rested. He thinks he is playing in the park. He can deliver the ball that no one else can deliver. He has got that magical sense. But he is not the kind of guy who approaches people and says, ‘You need to do this, that and that’. He’s a different character and sometimes I struggled with that. Sometimes I was really p**d with him for days and weeks. But he delivered magic moments for us, moments when you thought he could go to another level
[Mertesacker has also shed light on Arsene Wenger’s struggles before finishing his 22-year Gunners reign] When he lost one game, we often lost a few in a row. We could show off our class across six FA Cup games, but 38 League matches in ten months were a different matter.
We simply lacked the consistency all top teams need. You couldn’t win the League on eight defeats a year Arsene Wenger was always the kind of manager whose belief in his team’s qualities was steady as a rock and who approached matters with never-ending patience.
He didn’t lose his nerve during losing streaks, either. He stuck with his convictions and his players, no matter how strong the wind was blowing. It was his greatest strength.
Wondering whether it was also his greatest weakness and whether he was too lenient with us in, in my opinion, a little too simplistic
2019 10 17 Retrieve
[Per Mertesacker on Bukayo Saka’s academy year] He’s very, very bright. An interesting talent, but very young and we don’t want to push him too hard. The manager likes him, but he’s got a lot of steps to do before he can call himself a real professional in a first-team environment
2019 11 11 Retrieve
[Per Mertesacker praises Mikel Arteta] I was his vice-captain at Arsenal and he trusted me. I was by his side during team meetings and we had a great bond. I’d love to work with him again. [He is] a top guy
[Per Mertesacker praises Arsene Wenger, who was appointed last week as the new Head of Football Development at Fifa] He has an aura - it’s difficult to explain. He demands a lot, but makes you feel comfortable, too. It’s about trust. In hard times, he was a rock protecting us. I’ll always be very grateful to him
2019 11 19 Retrieve
[Per Mertesacker has revealed that he would like the chance to work with Mikel Arteta again] I was his vice-captain at Arsenal and he trusted me. I was by his side during team meetings and we had a great bond. I’d love to work with him again, a top guy
[He added on Wenger] He has an aura - it’s difficult to explain. He demands a lot, but makes you feel comfortable, too. It’s about trust. In hard times, he was a rock protecting us. I’ll always be very grateful to him.
[He said of Wenger, who left the Gunners over the summer] We formed the best partnership of my career. Laurent complemented my game and I loved our time together. It was sad to see him leave Arsenal the way he did, because he deserved a better legacy. All of the fans will soon appreciate him and everything he did for the club, because there are always two sides to a story
[Mertesacker saying of Tomas Rosicky] A special footballer and a fantastic guy. One of my first games was against him when he was at Borussia Dortmund. He was tough to stop, so I was really glad to have him as a team-mate at Arsenal
[He added on Spanish schemer Cazorla] One hell of a footballer - in training it was ridiculous! It’s sad when a naturally gifted player struggles with injury. Santi didn’t look like an athlete and wasn’t fast, but he could do everything
2020 02 15 Retrieve
[Mertesacker opens up on how Robert Enke’s suicide is shaping Arsenal’s academy 10 years on] He encouraged me, he pointed out my qualities - which one sometimes no longer sees himself as an insecure 19-year-old. He let me feel that he felt safe with me in the defence. I think a more beautiful experience can hardly be done at work, no matter what job you do: he gave me his trust
[When discussing Enke’s death] It was devastating, it felt really heavy at that time. I was sad, he was a very close friend of mine. It’s a very sensitive topic but I felt devastated. You question a lot. You question your life, you question your ability to connect with people. But I hope what I can learn from this is that you need to be very careful with the people living alongside you and you need to care. That’s something we are really keen on in the academy, to be the most caring academy in the world and that’s the challenge we put on ourselves
It’s one horrible example where people can be athletes and play to a high, high level on a weekly basis, but could suffer something else that we don’t know about. And that’s a big lesson for everyone, [it shows] that everyone is really in danger of mental illness. We need to be really cautious about this topic. Now we are here and sometimes it feels like the media will maybe do a campaign for a week to put an emphasis on it, but we then operate as usual the week after. It’s really about the people who live in the here and now to make it work
When I was playing there were sometimes people you could speak to like psychologists, but it was not as open an environment as it is right now. The chance we have now is to influence the next generation, so we’re really keen on bringing it all out and being conscious about mental health. When I struggled before games I was not really comfortable with the situation. I was always thinking that speaking about yourself or seeking help shows a weakness. We are trying to get rid of that notion by bringing out more stories about myself, about others, bringing more attention [to the fact] that top athletes struggle, bringing it more to life in a normal way and encouraging youngsters to speak out because we are a club that cares
When we look at the mission of the academy, [which is] to create the most challenging and most caring youth academy in the world, then you can see from the statement that we want to prepare for life. We want to be the most challenging for the kids to push them on to the next level, but as well in that challenge, we have to be caring in the sense of how can we support every single individual to live up to the expectations and support them in every aspect of their personal and individual development. There is a huge objective in our mission to build these strong individuals to cope with any scenario in life. That’s why we think our vision of strong, young Gunners is perfect in that sense. We try to put everything in place here to make sure there is an open forum to mental health
On the one hand we want to be the best football academy, where we build youngsters up to play in the team, to play football, to play the game they love. But we teach them to do it with respect, discipline and humility, and in these words already are a lot of things that indicate we want to do it the right way. We speak about physical health, but the mental part of it plays a huge part in that. How do we interact with each other, how do we keep that open forum alive, how do we develop our players, our coaches our staff and raise their awareness about how we talk to each other? We have a range here of Under-9s to Under-23s, how can we learn from each other, how can an Under-9 learn from an Under-23 in terms of his journey, on the struggle and the adversity that will kick in? So we do a lot of stuff that makes them more aware and hopefully more happy to live a more fulfilling life
2020 04 11 Retrieve
[Inside Hale End: How Per Mertesacker has shaken up Arsenal’s academy] In my new role as Arsenal academy manager I will do everything I can to challenge the young players’ mindsets. I want to challenge them so that they are ready to take on new ideas when it comes to their body and soul. I want to convince them they have to do something to get to the top of the world and I want to be an example for them. For me, there wasn’t really a way up but somehow I made it there anyway because I did everything I possibly could to give me the best chances to succeed. Talent is what you make of your situation.
When we look at the mission of the academy, [which is] to create the most challenging and most caring youth academy in the world, then you can see from the statement that we want to prepare them for life. On the one hand we want to be the best football academy, where we build youngsters up to play in the team, to play football, to play the game they love. But we teach them to do it with respect, discipline and humility and in these words already are a lot of things that indicate we want to do it the right way. We speak about physical health, but the mental part of it plays a huge part in that. How do we interact with each other, how do we keep that open forum alive, how do we develop our players, our coaches, our staff and raise their awareness about how we talk to each other? We have a range here of Under-9s to Under-23s. How can we learn from each other, how can an Under-9 learn from an Under-23 in terms of his journey, on the struggle and the adversity that will kick in? So, we do a lot of stuff that makes them more aware and hopefully happier to live a more fulfilling life.
2020 05 14 Retrieve
[Per Mertesacker is backing Mikel Arteta to deliver a fantastic future at Arsenal] I’m so delighted that Mikel has a place where he belongs, that’s my belief and that was my belief already as a player. His leadership is fantastic and I felt it myself, just being vice-captain and learning from him, how to handle situations, how to man up, be the captain and show it, but as well to have the empathy and the feeling for people. I learned a lot from him and I can only say that our working relationship is great and our personal relationship is great, so I can see a fantastic future for us. It’s just building pieces with Edu as well, so I think we’re in a fantastic position. We don’t take anything for granted, now is the time to really push on and make sure we come back to where we belong, and that’s the Champions League and having world-class players in the building, and having world-class young players. We want to build on our DNA that was developed over centuries, so we cannot forget the history and the greatness of the club. We are inheriting that and we are sons of so many greats that have led this club to greatness, so it’s a big responsibility, not only for myself but for Mikel, Edu and all the great leadership we have. I feel we have more and more people in the right places and I feel great about it
2020 05 16 Retrieve
[Mertesacker understood how quickly Gnabry’s life was changing, as the player himself admitted] One day, you’re watching Mesut Ozil on TV with your mates, and he’s your idol. Then two years later, you’re having a coffee with him. You were watching him in awe, assisting Cristiano [Ronaldo] in El Clasico. And then he’s right in front of you, asking you how you’re doing. It’s surreal. It’s hard to not change, to be honest. It’s hard to remember who you are
2020 06 11 Retrieve
[Mertesacker on FA Cup final renamed to incorporate Prince Williams’s ‘Heads Up’ mental health campaign] I was not comfortable speaking with certain individuals because I thought I needed to be strong, resistant and resilient, and deal with any kind of circumstances. Nowadays, there are more mechanisms than ever to start a conversation, and to give players tools to really cope with it