In a candid interview, Arsenal center-back Per Mertesacker admits that the Gunners are low on confidence in addition to having personnel issues, particularly in defense. The Premier League giant dodged a big bullet on Wednesday night when a pair of late goals from Kieran Gibbs and Lukas Podolski led to a fortuitous 2-1 win against Anderlecht in the UEFA Champions League.
“Football-wise, we lack a few things,” Mertesacker said. “The passing game is not as efficient as last year. We are not at our best, we have to admit that. We have to be honest to ourselves and train harder.” The German World Cup winner added: “I think we have to do better with our possession – to put more pressure on them, not to lose so many balls in the middle of the park, to play more in wide areas. I think it is better to expose them there, instead of playing one-twos through the middle. It doesn’t work as much as last season, so we have to work on that.”
Asked whether he is finding it difficult to hold the Arsenal back-four together in the ongoing absence of regulars Laurent Koscielny and Mathieu Debuchy, Mertesacker replied: “It is difficult. For me personally, it is difficult at the moment because that was really a long season last year, and to come back from the World Cup and get the motivation back – I am nearly back but you can feel there is something missing at the moment.”
The big German admitted that he needs to raise his game: “It is 100 days after the World Cup so I think it is time to raise the game, raise the mentality. It was good for me to retire [from international duty] so I can completely focus on Arsenal and not switch off and on every two or three weeks. Slowly, it is going to start. The season is going to start.”