‘It was a difficult situation to handle’

Per Mertesacker

While our players were shielded from the issues outside Emirates Stadium ahead of kick-off against Cologne, they still were worried about what was happening. 

Captain Per Mertesacker says the squad were in the dark about the situation, but felt that playing the game was the right decision.

“It was difficult to handle because we were already in the dressing room and then we found out that the kick-off was delayed by an hour,” he said. “It is frustrating, and you want to find out if you are actually going to play or not. That was in doubt. 

“We wanted desperately to play - but of course the safety of all supporters is the most important thing. 

“I just wanted to make sure my family was OK, which they were. Because some people said to tell them to just stay at home, because there were so many people outside the stadium. But in the end we were happy to play and finish the game.

“The atmosphere [once the match started] was actually quite positive because the fans inside the stadium were quite enthusiastic and it was quite fun to play in front of two crowds battling each other. It felt good to be part of that.”

Our next match, away to Chelsea on Sunday, will be another big test for the team but Mertesacker says we should draw confidence from a recent record of three wins from our last four matches against the Blues.

“[We can take] a lot from the FA Cup final, but it is different at Stamford Bridge,” he said. “It is a completely different pitch and it is going to be a different game. 

“They have habits that we have to read well, that is what we did well twice at Wembley. I think they will change a little bit because those two defeats hurt them. But we have to be confident going into that game. That needs more discipline than we showed against Liverpool.

“They beat us on the break and Chelsea will try to do the same on Sunday. The way we got defeated there last year, we have to look very deep into that game to find our rhythm. We have found our rhythm against Chelsea at Wembley but that is different circumstances than at Stamford Bridge. We have to take that rhythm from Wembley and the way we played and the way we prepared those games. It is down to us.”

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