Per Mertesacker responds to critics and reveals struggles after World Cup success

Per Mertesacker believes it is “easy” to criticise Arsenal’s defence but insists that the unit are responsible for creating a winning mentality at the club.

The German has been a mainstay of a Gunners back line that has conceded 36 goals this season, fewer than any other club in the Premier League except Southampton and champions Chelsea.

But despite that record, pundits such as Thierry Henry and Lee Dixon have called for manager Arsene Wenger to sign a world-class centre back this summer to bolster a squad that already contains Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel and Calum Chambers.

Mertesacker believes the back four are an easy target for critics whenever the side under-perform, and he insists that he is only concerned with evaluating his own performances. “I think it’s always easy to say,” he said. “I think we did a great job in 2015 when everyone was on board.

We won the FA Cup last season with that defence and we have a good chance to win it this season with that defence. “Being criticised a lot, we always came back and pushed even more. How we defended as a unit gave us the strength and the belief that we are capable of winning trophies and competing for a Champions League spot.

“I’m not going to get bothered by any comments about the defence at the moment. I can handle it when I have a bad performance. The self-criticism is always there so I don’t need to look at all the papers. Mertesacker admits that had a difficult time in the first few months of the season. The German felt the effects of fatigue after winning the World Cup in Brazil, but he says he expected an even tougher road to recovery after he missed the entirety of the pre-season.

“The first month in particular was very difficult to come back and to forget that feeling of being World Cup champion,” he said. “You need to calm down and to restart and that took half a year to realise that. “Most of the players got injured, I avoided that but didn’t play at my best. I didn’t know how to handle the situation sometimes but I tried to forget about the World Cup.

With all the reviews and the pictures that takes some time. “I expected a worse season from myself, honestly. I expected something more severe. At one point I was happy not to get an injury but it was very difficult to find the form and the fitness.

“I retired and that was a good decision for me to focus on Arsenal and I feel I benefitted from that decision.”

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