Arsenal captain confident Gunners will be stronger after international break

Per Mertesacker

Per Mertesacker - Credit: Archant

Per Mertesacker is grateful for the timing of the international break – and predicts that Arsenal will return from it stronger and more confident.

The Gunners are optimistic that injured trio Hector Bellerin, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should be fit to rejoin the squad when they resume their Premier League campaign a week on Saturday.

Theo Walcott is also expected to return before the end of the month and Mertesacker feels the easing of Arsenal’s injury problems will give them the necessary impetus to regain winning habits.

Sunday’s 1-1 draw against neighbours Tottenham was their second game without a win – and it could easily have ended in defeat but for substitute Kieran Gibbs’ late equaliser.

“We all looked a bit knackered, especially in the first half,” admitted Mertesacker. “We gave absolutely everything to get a draw here and we will enjoy next weekend off, a few of us, then back to duty the next week.

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“Obviously with players coming back we will gain some more energy. You could see how great it was to have Gibbs on the bench – when he came on he was fresh and gave everyone a lift with the goal.

“Over a short period you can replace a couple of players but with two games a week – and the intensity will not lessen – you need a lot of players who can replace each other and come and give energy.

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“That is important – it is how we beat Bayern Munich. Theo played for 75 minutes and then Olivier [Giroud] came on and gave us a different style and had a massive impact on the game. We need game-changers.

“With injuries, that is what we suffer a bit, but I’m convinced that after the international break we will have more options and therefore more confidence.

“Now we can switch off a little bit and come back stronger. There is room for improvement but we are in a good position and we want to continue that unbeaten streak.”

Arsenal made just one change to the side that had been thrashed 5-1 by Bayern Munich four days earlier, while Tottenham arrived at Emirates Stadium for their third outing in just six days.

But, while fatigue was certainly a factor for both sides, Mertesacker felt that the Gunners’ improvement in the second half made them good value for a point.

“The second half was much better,” added the Arsenal captain. “The will was there to continue and for us to play physically was important in the second half.

“We stayed with the same line-up as against Munich, apart from Gabriel, and even they [Tottenham] played on Thursday but they looked fresh in the first half and then suffered in the second.

“Against them you need to keep the clean sheet as long as possible and in the second half they suffered from their hard work. You could see us gain more and more confidence by having good chances.

“Our fans backed us even when we suffered and it was a tough game for us. We came out stronger and felt a bit of pressure not to lose – that was important and we finally got a good point.

“To sum it up, both teams gave their all on the pitch and that is why it was a joy not only to watch but a joy to play, especially in the second half.”

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