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Mertesacker: Wenger’s calm response to losing 8-2 to Man United sticks with me

Club captain says Wenger gave players the chance to learn from their mistakes

23 April, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Per Mertesacker in action for Arsenal [Photo: Ronnie McDonald]

ARSENAL captain Per Mertesacker has told how Arsene Wenger’s success was hinged on allowing players to learn from their mistakes and retaining his trust in them to put things right.

In the German defenders’s first week at the club, the Gunners had famously just lost 8-2 to rivals Manchester United, but Mertesacker said Wenger’s response to the embarrassing result at Old Trafford would stick with him.

“His calmness especially on the first week after the 8-2 defeat at Manchester United really struck me,” he said, as he explained his feelings about Wenger’s imminent departure from the club after 22 years in charge. “I expected a storm of pressure but it was all about him calming everyone down and focusing.”

Mertesacker, who is hanging up his boots at the end of the season but staying on at Arsenal in a coaching role, said:  “In sport, people change a lot when things go wrong, especially at a professional level. Some people change things and do things differently but him trusting people to learn from those mistakes was huge. It’s something I will always put on him. He made me aware that there’s room for trust and honesty, to care about people.”

The defender has been at Arsenal since 2011 and has seen the ups and downs of Wenger’s later years at the club first hand.

“There have been lots of challenges, a lot of highs and lows but how he went through tough times has taught me a lot about his character and about how to trust people and get the people in the right places to be successful,” said Mertesacker, writing in his programme notes before yesterday’s (Sunday’s) home victory over West Ham. “He gave us the opportunity to explore ourselves in order to be successful, and he’s always managed to get the team around himself to be successful.”

Several first-teamers have talked about how they are now more determined to win the Europa League as a final tribute to Wenger.

“For us to step up is natural now, as humans,” said Mertesacker. “You’ll always say you’ll give your best but sometimes circumstances change and you adapt quickly. I hope we can capitalise now, put energy in the right direction and move forward together as a club. Let’s give him the credit he deserves. His passion is winning and making everyone aware that winning is the only option here. That is his legacy. Now let’s all be united until the very end of the season and do this together.

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