Per Mertesacker has become something of a revelation since his arrival at Arsenal in 2011. After a poor first season in North London, the German is now a major part of the Gunners’ first team line-up. With the German ranking first for the Gunners in the most featured for the Arsenal team last season followed by Bacary Sagna.
Let me refresh your mind a bit. In 2011, Arsenal signed a certain 27-year-old German international defender – Per Mertesacker. The Gunners paid Werder Bremen a fee of around €11 million to acquire the services of the vastly experienced and reliable centre-back.
Back then, signing a centre-back was Arsene Wenger’s top priority. Mertesacker was brought in to reinforce Arsenal’s defense just a couple of days after Arsenal’s 8-2 defeat against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Mertesacker arrived along with another experienced player in Mikel Arteta. In 2011, both these players were labeled as ‘panic buys’ only for them to prove doubters wrong by their performances on the pitch in the following years. Mertesacker for one, was one of the most important and influential players in an Arsenal team which was in transition following the departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.
Although the German initially took a season to adapt to the tough rigors of the English game, he still had a telling influence in his first year at Arsenal. The Arsenal back line needed a physical presence and an organizer, which was missing since what seemed like ages. In Mertesacker, Arsenal got just that. The then German international defender brought his wealth of experience, the much needed composure and leadership skills to this Arsenal side, something which the Gunners craved for years.
Mertesacker isn’t the fastest of defenders, but he’s a great reader of the game as he’s quick to see moves before they materialise. Arsenal lacked a towering presence at the back and at 6ft’ 6in they got just what they desired in Per Mertesacker.
He subsequently developed a telepathic understanding with Laurent Koscielny as both of them, over recent seasons, have been one of the best centre-back pairings in Europe. This strong partnership between Mertesacker and Koscielny forced club captain Thomas Vermaelen out of the starting eleven. After two tough seasons, the Belgian defender eventually jumped ship as he joined Barcelona for a reported €19 million.
Mertesacker came in and became that all important defensive leader which many expected Vermaelen to become. He got a chance to prove his abilities and he took that chance very well by cementing his place in Arsenal’s starting line up.
Ever since joining Arsenal, Mertesacker has established himself as one of the best defenders in Europe and also as one of the main fixtures in the Arsenal team. Since then, he’s been a very important player for the club, a commanding presence and one of the real leaders at Arsenal along with teammate Mikel Arteta.
Many were surprised when Arsene Wenger named the ever ageing Mikel Arteta, 32, as the club’s captain and Mertesacker as the Vice-captain for this season. A vast majority of the Arsenal faithful wanted to see the German wearing the armband from this season.
But for Mertesacker, he’s always been one of those players who works hard and contributes a lot with, or without recognition. At 29, Mertesacker recently retired from international football having won the World Cup with Germany. The player ended a 10-year spell with the German national team winning a total of 104 caps for the Die Mannschaft.
Now with new club captain Arteta confirmed injured after the match against Besiktas over the week, Per will on his return to the Arsenal line-up brandish the captain’s armband and will field out with his co-Arsenal players and try to lead Arsenal to victory against Roberto Martinez’ men at Goodison Park in the late Saturday’s kick-off of the Premier League.
Per Mertesacker is ready, as usual, to shoulder more responsibilities as he leads Arsenal into a new era.