By Chris Harris

Arsène Wenger says Per Mertesacker did not deserve the criticism levelled at him last season.

The Germany defender has been outstanding this term, holding down a place in one of the most competitive areas of the Arsenal side, and he opened his account for the Club with a powerful header against Tottenham on Saturday. 

Mertesacker was less of a regular during his first 12 months in English football but Wenger believes he was simply a victim of circumstance.

"To his defence I must say last year he arrived on August 31, and had no pre-season, had an ankle injury and had to adapt to a completely new world," said the manager.

"Centre back is difficult for people who come from abroad, it was a bit of a shock for him, but this season he has come back very fit, well prepared, and of course knew what the expectations were for him and did extremely well.

"This season especially, as you [the media] have noticed, he has been outstanding.

"The criticism was always completely unjust," added Wenger. "It was overboard, we always say you have to deal with that.

"There is only one thing you can do as a football player at the top level, and that is to turn the critics down with your performances, and that is what he did.

"For the rest, you have to let people say what they want and show on the pitch they are wrong, that is all you can do."

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Copyright 2014 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 20 Nov 2012