by Nia Griffiths

Our stand-in Captain for most of the season, Per Mertesacker, spoke recently about the contribution of the younger players to the team this season and their importance within the squad.

After captain Mikel Arteta was left injured earlier this season, our vice captain, the BFG, was asked to temporarily take the black armband and lead the team. This was a task the centreback relished and rarely a game went past without the television cameras picking up the German barking orders at his troops.

Referring to the cohesion of the team, Mertesacker said, “We need everyone with us and really in form. That means everyone contributes, no matter where they are in the squad. That is really important for the energy of the team.”

Arteta’s injury also had a knock-on affect on the rest of the team and this forced Arsene Wenger to recall defensive midfielder, Francis Coquelin, back from loan at Charlton Athletic to stand in.

No one predicted the six months the young Frenchman would have and he went on to appear 30 times in total for the Gunners this season.

Similarly, 20-year-old Hector Bellerin found himself thrust into the spotlight when injury to Mathieu Debuchy and illness to Calum Chambers gave him a decent run in the first team. And a decent run it was.

Both deservedly received a winner’s medal in the FA Cup and saw their hard work, patience and fearlessness pay off.

Mertesacker paid tribute to this, saying, “When you get some young players in and they get time to play, that is unusual for normal seasons but they hit the ground running from the start and you saw the potential. Not only potential, they executed it and that is something you want to see.”