Club captain, our Wembley man of the match and a three-time Emirates FA Cup winner. Per Mertesacker made a huge impact on his return to our starting lineup.
The World Cup winner had only played 37 minutes this season before Saturday’s win over Chelsea but led the way in tackles, recoveries and blocks during an outstanding individual performance.
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Mertesacker spoke to the media after the game and had this to say:
on his first start…[I was] almost forgotten, I would say and that has made me strong. I felt the trust of the team and the trust of the coaching staff was vital in those moments when you struggle, when you are out. A lot of people forget about you, but this team always believed in my qualities, even when I was out for a long time. Even though I was injured or supposed to be old, it didn’t matter. Even though I didn’t need to give an answer to all the doubters, it was just the trust of my team which was vital in all those moments. When the stakes are high in a final, when you can perform like that it says a lot about the team. We proved that, even when there were difficult times.
on the team “suffering” this season…We looked bright. We had an unbeaten run for 20 games earlier in the season and there were a lot of hopes. Then, when you go into that period where you struggle, you find it hard to win games. All the other teams have a go at you and you lose more than you win. This team, in my opinion, grew at that time the most. Even when we were out of the Champions League in our final game… We still have a lot to prove and the team wants that challenge, especially for next season. It’s going to be a tough one for us but I’m not afraid to say that we still have a good chance in the league. This team suffered a lot this season but we’re still able to perform like that. We’re still able to have good performances but consistency was not always the case and that’s something we need to work on. We’re capable of those performances.
on Wenger’s future…The most important thing about him is the trust he gives his players, as you can see from my example. That’s the most important thing as a manager, that you want to challenge your players but you also trust them when you send them on the field. He is calm when dealing with those situations and you have to give him credit for that because there have been a lot of people who have said he can’t deliver anymore but we’ve done a job today. We’re focusing on ourselves because we had to improve a lot. We saw teams doing a better job than us, being more physical and having a better work-rate. It was time for us to have that learning experience. We put the work-rate in, we put the intensity in and we can win against any team now.
on how much his experience got him through the game…I cannot really explain that because I need to let that sink in. It was a tough season for myself. There were a lot of rumours about me. We had three centre backs out for this game. He could have gone small but he went with a big fella and that’s something I have to give him credit for. I’ve only been training but always with the same focus and always with the same mentality. In football, there are quick changes. He had the mentality that, no matter how old the player is, no matter how experienced, no matter how others felt about it, he just trusted me and that says a lot about his person.
on how this trophy compares…It was completely unexpected. Two weeks ago I didn’t expect it. You always have that small hope that maybe you can make a contribution, because you want to make a contribution. The first half of the season was tough and lining up in front of the lads was a proud moment for me. I went into the game saying to myself, ‘There’s nothing to expect from me’. Everyone had written me off already and I just went through my normal routine. After 15 years, you’re not going to forget what you have achieved and what you have gone through. I’ve learned a lot and one thing I want to be sure about today is that this team is exceptional in the way they’ve trusted me and always appreciated my support, even when I was not playing.
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