In a recent question and answer session, Per Mertesacker revealed which Germans he would have loved to play with, our most improved players from last season, arguments within the team and what he thinks of his famous nickname.
The BFG first signed for us in 2011 from Werder Bremen and many were skeptical about the lanky centre-back’s ability as a defender. However, since, he’s become one of the first names on the teamsheet, our vice-captain and gone on to feature in 172 matches for us.
Speaking recently, the 30-year-old, who has 100 caps for the German national side, was asked about the best German player he’s ever worked with or, by the sounds of his answer, who he would’ve liked to work with.
“There’s a lot of great players,” he said. “I’ve never played with Lothar Matthaus. It was Miroslav Klose because he’s scored more than 60 goals for Germany and is our all-time leading goalscorer. He overtook Gerd Muller. I never played with Gerd Muller.”
Moving onto his Arsenal teammates, Mertesacker praised youngsters Coquelin and Bellerin, who enjoyed a solid second half to last season after Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Debuchy picked up injuries.
“Last season we had Hector Bellerin stepping up and Francis Coquelin in the second half of the season,” the BFG said. “These are two young players who got their chance to step up and performed really well. It gave us a lot of energy when it was needed because we went through the first part of the season with a lot of injuries, so there’s a lot more to come from them this season.”
Although he didn’t specifically point out Santi Cazorla as one of our most improved players, the defender clarified that this was purely because he’s always played to a high standard.
“He stands out every year,“ he said. “He played more on the wing when he first arrived and now he’s more central, sitting and creating the chances from even deeper.
“He’s controlling the game and his skills with the ball is absolutely amazing to watch,“ he added. “But to play alongside him is even better, but he already set such a high standard when he first arrived.”
One aspect of football that we don’t get much insight into is how the players mesh behind the scenes. On whether the players ever argue, the BFG said, “Sometimes, yes. In the dressing room a lot, on the pitch a lot, but we need to forget about what happened on the pitch at the end of the game and in the dressing room after it’s fine again.”
He continued, “We don’t take it into the dressing room and that is very important. If you shout at someone, you leave it on the pitch. That’s the place for emotions so it’s good to argue on the pitch, and it’s good to have different opinions, but when you leave the pitch you need to forget about it.”
Finally, Mertesacker was asked what he thought about his nickname that the Arsenal fans have given him and chant from the stands week in, week out.
“I like it,” he said. “It’s simple, ‘Big Friendly Giant’.”
Sure, Per. ‘Big Friendly Giant‘. That’s exactly what is means…