Mertesacker reveals players' crisis talks have saved their faltering season

Per Mertesacker has revealed the players' crisis meeting which has saved Arsenal's season.

Gunners captain Mertesacker admits they had a group heart-to-heart after the defeat at Southampton on New Year's Day.

Mertesacker says the discussions centred on the whole team forgetting their defensive duties - and they have won five straight games since... and kept clean sheets in four of them.

The Southampton defeat was one of the north Londoners' biggest setbacks this season with keeper Wojciech Szczesny making a double blunder, then being fined after being caught smoking in the showers.

The Gunners boss Arsene Wenger also admitted that it was "player power" which persuaded him to change tactics and go more defensive in their approach at Manchester City a couple of weeks later - a game the Gunners won to get their top four ambitions back on track.

German World Cup winner Mertesacker said: "At Southampton, that was a major setback. That was a bad start to the year.

"After that, we promised ourselves to come out of that comfort zone and be a bit more focussed, especially what comes first is defensive work and not just for the back four.

"That is what was maybe the main thing for us to focus, just to promise, and after that we played more convincing, especially defensively.

"You can see the benefit when everyone realises that, and I thought everyone realised it very quickly after we lost at Southampton. Maybe sometimes you need a wake-up call in certain times to realise what was really important.

"We worked a lot on our defensive shape, not just the back four, to avoid those dangerous free balls against us. We look much better and the best game defensively was against Man City, that was a bit of a change.

"In the last years, we went there and wanted to convince everybody that we can go and play our own way, so that was a bit of a change. Sometimes we have to do something else that was unexpected, and was maybe the winning moment."

Wenger has consistently relied on players' meetings during his reign at Arsenal and each season seems to be revived at some point after a dressing room showdown.

But Mertesacker says the real proof in the pudding is on the pitch and whether they can continue their winning run in Saturday's North London derby at Tottenham:

"We have lots of meetings, especially on what we needed to focus on, and what was really the important things.

"Sometimes you can discuss a lot and you do not find any solutions, you have to find them on the pitch. You can talk so long, but you wont get the benefit.

"We talked consistently about how to find our best way, but you have to show it on the pitch, otherwise everybody will doubt you and you cannot see any benefit.

"Sometimes you have to discuss a few things, but what is really important is that you implement it on the pitch."

Meanwhile, Mertesacker also claimed his Germany international team mate Mesut Ozil is still finding his way back despite his impressive display in Sunday's 5-0 thrashing of Aston Villa.

It was midfielder Ozil's first Premier League start after three months out with a knee injury.

Mertesacker added: "You can see he is dangerous and has pace when he really wants he is so quick, and he caused a lot of trouble, and was always a threat.

"It was not on his best position in my opinion, he played more on the left side, but he can play anywhere up front.

"It is good for him to get back his fitness maybe on the wing he is doing a bit more defensive work as well. He suffered a bit at the end of the game, but he always looked dangerous, was always available, wants the ball and wants to create something."



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