Per - Our team spirit grew in Asia

Per Mertesacker has praised Arsenal's team spirit ahead of the big Premier League kick-off.

The German centre back is entering his third year with the Gunners but this has been his first full pre-season - he arrived at the end of the transfer window in 2011 and spent much of last summer playing at or recovering from the European Championship.

"We've had a longer pre-season and more time to know each other better, to prepare ourselves in training"

Mertesacker has been a mainstay of this summer's fixtures and he has seen at close hand the growing camaraderie within the squad - a quality he feels will pay dividends this season.

"We've had a longer pre-season and more time to know each other better, to prepare ourselves in training," Mertesacker told Arsenal Player.

"I think we have a good team spirit and we've built it up, especially in Asia, where we were together for more than two weeks. If we stick together more in the first month, especially in the Champions League qualifier and the first games of the Premier League, we can continue our good run that we had [at the end] of last season."

The two-legged play-off against Fenerbahce looms large with the first leg in Turkey four days after Arsenal host Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium. Mertesacker is pleased to have the second leg on home soil.

"We hope that [playing] the first game away is a bit of an advantage for us," he said. "We have to concentrate on that game.

"[Playing] away in Istanbul is always special, the fans are passionate and we have to cope with that and realise that we have a chance to qualify for the Champions League.

"We did a lot in the last season, especially in the last 10 games to get the chance to get [in] the qualifiers. We have to focus on that."

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