By Chris Harris
Per Mertesacker says Arsenal could do worse than imitate Schalke when they go for goals in Gelsenkirchen tonight.
The Germany defender returns to his homeland for the second of a double-header with the Bundesliga high-flyers knowing that a defeat would leave the Gunners in a real battle to reach the knockout stage of the Champions League.
Schalke's 2-0 win at Emirates Stadium a fortnight ago gave them the edge in Group B and Mertesacker was frustrated that Arsenal played into the German side's hands. He knows what they have to do to turn the tables tonight.
"We have to behave like them," Mertesacker told Arsenal Player. "Be very good defensively, very focused on our game and when we have the ball play quickly and play with confidence. That’s what our game is capable of. That’s what we need to do at Schalke.
"We are in a situation where we are not top of the group so we need to do something. This is one of the most important games in this Champions League season. Let’s focus on that, because [Schalke] is our main opponent to be successful or to go through to the next round.
"Schalke are a great team. They were efficient - very effective in the defence and very patient to build up their game. In the beginning they were a bit scared, but we built them up. We made them feel more comfortable to be more confident with the situation in the Champions League.
"I think it was our fault to build them up. We made a couple of mistakes. Then they recognised ‘OK, we can achieve something at Arsenal’ and we were lacking a bit of confidence of our own game. It was easy for Schalke to win. Normally, we will have our confidence and our game and we should be better than that [the performance at Emirates Stadium]."
Schalke's performance in north London underlined the Bundesliga's strength in depth. Bayern Munich, beaten finalists last season, are well-placed to reach the last 16, while Borussia Dortmund top the so-called 'group of death' ahead of Real Madrid and Manchester City. Mertesacker agrees that this is a boom time for German football.
"I think the Bundesliga is able to get four Champions League places," he said. "They received only three this year because [Borrusia Monchengladbach] lost against [Dynamo] Kiev in the qualifier.
"But the Bundesliga overtook Italy so they’re on the up and they’ve shown it in the Champions League as well. Dortmund beat Real Madrid and Schalke beat us so they have a bright future I think.
"We could see it last year with Dortmund. They played a very high, intensive, very physical game. It’s hard to beat German sides because they can do it for 90 minutes. Normally you expect, like QPR, after 60 minutes they get weaker and weaker but especially the good teams in Germany, they can keep it for 90 minutes.
"It’s hard to pass through the lines because they’re always ahead of the ball and behind the ball. That’s what makes German teams so good."
Watch the full interview with Per on Arsenal PlayerCopyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source