“Emotional” Mertesacker: Send Wenger off “with a cup”

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Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has made 220 appearances for the club, all with one man in charge of the Gunners: Arsene Wenger.

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Mertesacker has won three FA Cups with Wenger, and he took up his pen — or laptop — for Sunday’s Matchday program.

The 33-year-old German says it’s down to Arsenal’s players to send off Wenger right: With two more successful rounds in the UEFA Europa League against Atletico Madrid and either Red Bull Salzburg or Marseille. From the BBC:

“We were only informed on Friday about the manager’s decision to step down at the end of the season, so it’s still quite emotional,” Mertesacker said.

“He’s been the major figure of this club for more than 20 years. He’s been so impressive for me and he has trusted me so much throughout my career, in bringing me here and making me captain even when I was injured. He also gave me a future role here at the club so I am very grateful and humbled for the opportunity he gave to me.

“There’s now an emphasis on us doing it for him too. We want to give him the send-off he deserves: with a cup.”

The French legend to end his time at Arsenal against Marseille would be delightful, don’t you think?

Mertesacker admits getting sick before every match

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Few would regard Per Mertesacker as anything but a tough customer given his imposing record as a center back with Arsenal, Germany, and Werder Bremen.

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But as the German completes his final season as a player ahead of a coaching move into Arsenal’s academy, the 33-year-old says he doesn’t miss match day and hopes to finish the season watching from the stands.

Even the toughest have their demons, and Mertesacker told Der Spiegel that he is plagued by pre-match jitters of a sickening variety. From the Metro:

“In the moments before a game starts, my stomach turns around as if I had to vomit. Then I have to choke so violently until my eyes water. Even if I had to vomit before every game and go to rehab 20 times, I would do it all over again. It was worth it for all of the memories.”

That’s not unsettling at all.

Mertesacker has played 11 times this season, with a pair of goals for the Gunners, running his Arsenal total to 220 appearances.

He’ll finish his career with 104 Germany caps and a World Cup to go with three FA Cups and two German Cups.

 

Deeney: Arsenal shrink when challenged, lack “cojones”

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Troy Deeney thinks, and says, what everyone else has been saying about Arsenal for a few years now — that Arsene Wenger‘s side lacks toughness and heart — only the Watford captain has done so far more bombastically and scathingly following his side’s 2-1 victory over the Gunners on Saturday.

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Deeney, who pulled Watford back to level terms in the 71st minute on Saturday, has always been an outspoken character, but Saturday’s post-game assessment of Arsenal’s formerly great team and manager was relentless and unbridled. The 29-year-old believes it’s a bit of “cojonesquotes from the Evening Standard” which Arsenal lack, and he was more than happy to explain just why that is — :

“I’ve heard Wenger’s already blaming [the penalty] as the reason for why they lost. Well, I’m not going to be one to tell Mr. Wenger about himself, but there’s a reason that they lost and it wasn’t because of one penalty.

“I have to watch what I say, but it’s [having] a bit of cojones, is what I’ll say. Whenever I play against Arsenal, I’ll go up and think, ‘Let me whack the first one and see who wants it.’

“I came on today and jumped up with Mertesacker — I didn’t even have to jump, actually — I nodded it down, the crowd gets up, ‘Yeah, we’ve got somebody who can win it,’ and they all just backed off.

“For me as a player, I just think, ‘Happy days.’ That’s my strength — if you’re going to let me do my strength against you, you’re going to have a tough afternoon.”

Again, the above is nothing that hasn’t been said of Arsenal for years now. The difference, of course, is that now it’s a current player — one who’s just bested on them on the field of play — throwing haymakers and putting them on blast.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen, and how happy everyone appears to be to dance on their grave.

Watford 2-1 Arsenal: Cleverley seals upset in stoppage

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  • Mertesacker scores in rare start
  • Watford PK lone shot on target over 90…
  • …then Cleverley scored in stoppage
  • Watford moves fourth
  • Arsenal drops sixth

Tom Cleverley scored in stoppage time to hand Watford a surprising 2-1 win over Arsenal at Vicarage Road.

Per Mertesacker‘s first Premier League goal in 1400 days was offset when Troy Deeney converted a 72nd minute penalty to level the score.

Watford’s 15 points move it into the Top Four, while Arsenal sinks sixth.

The match was Watford’s first home match since its lone loss of the season, a 6-0 shellacking at home versus Manchester City.

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Roberto Pereyra couldn’t turn a hard cross on goal early, and Arsenal missed a chance through Mohamed Elneny, too.

Mertesacker scored when he rose above Tom Cleverley to head home a 39th minute marker off a corner kick.

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Watford was on the front foot to start the second half, with Richarlison and Andre Gray providing moments of quality and danger.

Petr Cech stopped a cross from reaching a leaping Abdoulaye Doucoure at the back post.

Arsenal needed to swing the game back in its direction, and substitute Mesut Ozil swept Alex Iwobi to the left post for a quality chance that Heurelho Gomes slapped just beyond the right post.

That’s when life got harder for Arsenal, with Hector Bellerin fouling Richarlison on the left of the 18. Richarlison certainly made the most of contact, and Deeney stepped up to face Cech. He scored.

That wasn’t the end of Watford’s chances, the hosts’ hitting the goal post in the final 10 minutes before a stoppage time rebound landed on the doorstep for Cleverley to hammer home.

Mertesacker to retire, manage Arsenal’s academy in 2018-19

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Per Mertesacker‘s final season as a player will be in 2017-18.

Arsenal’s club captain, 32, will call time on his playing career and move into a full-time coaching role as the manage of the Gunners’ academy.

Injured for most of last season, the German national team legend put in a stunning display in the 2016-17 FA Cup final as Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 at Wembley Stadium.

Now, he will have one more season leading Arsenal on the pitch before leading their youth policy off of it. He will also work closely with the academy over the next 12 months before taking up his new position.

Here’s what Arsene Wenger had to say about Mertesacker moving onto a new challenge.

“Per is an exceptional character who is a great example for young players,” Wenger said. “He is a deep thinker about the game and committed to helping players fulfill their potential. He will be an inspirational figure for everyone connected with the academy.”

As for Mertesacker, he said this was “the start of an exciting new chapter for me and I am delighted that I will be able to stay part of the Arsenal family.”

Mertesacker is a model pro who despite all of his injuries last season prepared himself mentally for a massive display in the FA Cup final. Wenger spoken glowingly of his attitude in the aftermath of that win (Mertesacker’s third FA Cup trophy as a Gunner) and has always been a huge admirer of the German World Cup winner.

In the past much has been said about past Arsenal greats such as Tony Adams, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieria not moving into more senior coaching roles under Wenger, but with Steve Bould by his side and now Mertesacker set to be around to help develop youngsters, a real culture of former pros leading the club is emerging.

Dare we say Mertesacker is being groomed to take over when Wenger steps down…

Probably not, but it’s clear he has Arsenal in his heart and vice versa with the BFG a hugely popular figure among supporters, teammates and club officials alike.