'I'm not playing but I can't switch off'

By Connor Armstrong

Per Mertesacker might not be ready for a return to competitive action just yet, but that doesn’t mean he can kick back and relax over the festive period entirely.

The World Cup winner has been at the club for five years now and says his role as club captain means he will treat this Christmas like any other.

“We have two games coming up that I probably won’t play in,” Mertesacker admitted. “I can relax a little bit more but I’m going to be with the lads for most of the time to give them support.

“I cannot switch off, I need to train every day to get fit. It will be a different one for me because I won’t have the pressure of playing games, but I’ll train every single day to make sure I’m match fit as soon as possible.

“To spend some time with the family will be good but this is a very important period for us due to our last week, where we’ve struggled performance-wise and results-wise.

“It’s going to be busy, it’s going to be tough and it’s going to be competitive but if you want to be in a good position for 2017, you need to step it up now.”

The Germany international admits that the idea of festive fixtures was, at first at least, not something he looked too fondly upon. But his attitude has changed since arriving on these shores.

“It’s a tradition here and it took me two or three years,” he said. “In the first year, I struggled a lot.

“Now, I’m really in favour of it because it’s good for the fans. In England, everyone looks forward to those games on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

“The focus is there - you’re really into it and you think more about the next game and don’t switch off. You have to step up because this period could define our season, so it’s really important.”


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