Mertesacker: Premier League is best in the world

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Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has claimed the Premier League is the toughest competition in the world.

The 28-year-old German international - who arrived in north London from Bundesliga outfit Werder Bremen, following a deadline day transfer in August 2011 - endured a difficult start to life at the Emirates Stadium, but is now starting to find his feet with the Gunners.

"You know, the German Bundesliga has improved in the past few years and it is quite a good league, but the best in the world in my opinion is the Premier League," he told the Sunday Express.

"That is because of the physical strength. You have to focus on every single tackle and contest in each match. There were quite a few games last season when I didn't have enough focus on tackling. I had to learn it, and learn it quickly, to cope with the physical stuff.

"In Germany it was more about anticipation and positioning and covering team-mates. In the Premier League you have to focus more on your body and be ready for whatever comes at you, the one-on-one battle with the opposing striker. It's fun."

Arsene Wenger has always kept faith in Mertesacker, who boasts a wealth of international experience having played more than 80 times for his country, and featuring in two World Cup semi-finals, and the final of Euro 2008.

With that in mind, it was only a matter of time before the gangly central-defender became accustomed to the English style, and he has answered his early critics emphatically by establishing himself as the rock of a robust new Arsenal defence this season.

Their impressive performances at the back could not prevent the Gunners from going down 1-0 against Norwich City at Carrow Road on Saturday, but that has done little to dampen the stopper's positive attitude moving forward.

"It was a difficult time for Arsenal when I arrived," he added. "They had bought players quickly in a few days, and there was a new city, a new language and a new team for me to adapt to. You need at least one year to feel comfortable with everything.

"I had a lot of disappointments, but I have come back in a stronger way. It gave me a new motivation to prove myself in England.

"It's nice to hear the applause and the positive comments now. One of the really important things was the trust of Arsene Wenger and assistant manager Steve Bould. They have helped to get me up to the right level. They let me learn, and that makes you stronger as well."

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Per Mertesacker
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