Per Mertesacker has revealed how important the Arsenal fans’ support has been during his career in England.
The Germany international is a popular figure, both inside and outside the dressing room, and has earned the nickname, ‘The BFG’.
However, it has not always been easy for the 29-year-old and he says the support he received from the fans helped him through a testing early spell in the Premier League.
“I had a hard first season but they encouraged me so I have to give them credit,” Mertesacker said. “Especially in my first season they always covered me and always backed me up and gave me that bit of confidence you need as a player.
In my first season they always covered me and always backed me up and gave me that bit of confidence you need as a playerPer Mertesacker
“It's good to have a manager who backs you up in difficult situations but also when the crowd does not get nervous when you get the ball and they are chanting your name instead. That's the difference.
“It looks like we like each other. The fans like it when you play your honest game, which I have learned in my youth. I just kept going in my style of play.
“It's not only the skilful players who can make the difference in any game. We also have players who try to stick to their qualities and give absolutely everything.”
Mertesacker is looking forward to his first FA Cup final, and believes that a victory at Wembley would have a major impact on the Arsenal team.
“There were a few years when we lost some key players every season,” he said. “This year we stayed together and got the right additions. It has changed a bit now we keep important players, as you can see.
“Eight players have extended their contracts and the manager is likely to do that as well, so the core is all together. That has changed the belief, the togetherness and the confidence. We think we can achieve something from this group.
“It would be a big step for our team [to win the FA Cup]. We went through a lot of difficulties, we were top of the league before we dropped points and then came back to fourth position. We have won five games [in a row and] we want to continue with that - it looks like we are back on track.”