Skipper praises 10-man Arsenal for spirited comeback against Spurs
22:30 06 March 2016
Captain Per Mertesacker insists Arsenal should take heart from their fightback in Saturday’s north London derby – although they now trail leaders Leicester by eight points.
The Gunners seemed doomed to their third successive Premier League defeat after they had Francis Coquelin sent off at White Hart Lane and Tottenham then turned a deficit into a 2-1 lead.
However, Arsenal’s 10 men battled hard to secure a point courtesy of an Alexis Sanchez equaliser – paving the way for Leicester to extend their lead at the top by winning at Watford later that day.
Referring to recent criticism of the team’s performances, Mertesacker observed: “For a team with low confidence and no belief we played pretty well!
“I think we have shown great character and hopefully that gives us a lot of confidence and a lot of belief. With 11 men, we played really well and I think we defended well.
“It was a high tempo – the first 15 minutes were absolutely amazing. I have never played in such a demanding game physically.
“Mentally, it’s always tough and you could feel the pressure but the team responded well. It is about how you turn up, and I think we turned up very aggressively.
“Especially in midfield, we were always on the ball, always aggressive and we wanted to attack the man with the ball so hopefully it gives us something.
“As long as we play like that, I’m confident – I have great belief in our group and nothing else.”
Arsenal will be back in familiar surroundings at Emirates Stadium this weekend and Mertesacker knows they must make amends for their last home game, a 2-1 defeat to Swansea.
On that occasion, the Gunners team left the field to a chorus of jeers, but Mertesacker has urged supporters to reproduce the kind of backing that was clearly audible from the away section at Tottenham.
“The expectation was there [against Swansea] and when we didn’t perform, there was a bit of nervousness in the crowd,” added the German defender. “But I can understand that.
“As long as we support each other and back each other, it will take us to another level. That is my opinion and I think our fans did really well [at White Hart Lane].
“We are looking forward to the next home game and trying to give our fans a better performance. I think you embrace playing at home, in front of your fans, even more – it gives you more energy than playing away from home.
“I think we come back to embracing the challenge at the Emirates next time because when we play like that, everyone will enjoy it.”