Per Mertesacker has revealed that his superb performance in the FA Cup final last season really turned things around when it came to how others perceived him but not how he perceived himself.
After spending 190 days sidelined when he was forced to undergo surgery on his knee, Mertesacker was called into action against Everton during Arsenal’s final Premier League match of the campaign. Gabriel was taken off injured and Shkodran Mustafi had concussion. Laurent Koscielny had also managed to get himself red-carded.
The BFG played just 37 minutes against the Toffees, which is why his heroic performance against Chelsea in the FA Cup final was so impressive.
In a brilliant interview with the Guardian, the German revealed a conversation he’d previously had with Arsene Wenger:
“I said: ‘It doesn’t matter how bad or how good I train, I get no chance to be selected.’ He said: ‘Yes, it’s tough. But there will always be a chance. And you have to be ready.’”
He continued, “One day before the game the manager names 11 players, you have to get a bib and sometimes you look at the colour and think that means something.
“On that Friday, by the time he got to me he’d called a few names, people like Rob Holding, so I knew I was playing in the final. I thought: ‘Yeah, he’s really doing it.’”
The defender added, “This game turned so many things around. It’s just crazy from my point of view. People saying: ‘He’s not capable of doing it because of the injury. We need to get new players. He’s too slow.’ But I can still do it on the pitch on any given day, even with one year out. I’ve done this for 13 years, the same, so I know what’s going on.”
Mertesacker is 32 years old. He’s made 523 club performances over his career; 210 for Arsenal, who he supported as a child.
The tall defender picked up over 100 caps for Germany before he retired in 2014 and was made Arsenal captain. He’s come back from seven injuries.
Therefore, you can understand why the German seems almost bitter about the lack of faith shown in him ahead of that final. And I’ll admit, I was one of the majority of Gooners who were convinced that Arsenal were going to lose that game against the title winners. Although not just because of our defensive situation.
I hope the big guy continues to surprise us… in a good way, I mean.