Arsenal vice-captain Per Mertesacker has revealed that he retired from international football this summer in order to focus on his career at club level, according to the Gunners’ official website.
The big German, who is arguably Arsene Wenger’s most senior squad member following the departure of Thomas Vermaelen, stepped down from the selection pool for his national squad following their World Cup triumph in Brazil, and has admitted that it was so that he could prolong his time at the top in north London.
Having also lifted the F.A Cup this year, virtue of Arsenal’s 3-2 win over Hull City in May, Mertesacker is as hungry as he’s ever been to add more silverware to his north London cabinet.
“I reflected and last season was very tough,” Mertesacker told Arsenal Player.
“This season won’t be less intense so I needed a chance to rest and refuel. I want to push forward with the club now to show I can still improve.
“I realised over the last few years that the club really needs me and that was a big motivation to win something with them and then with Germany. Now I’m really focused to do even more with Arsenal.
“There’s even more respect and support here than I expected when I signed. This club has topped everything and I’m really proud to be part of it, especially after learning more about the fans and its history.
“As vice-captain I feel more responsibility for my work here and I want to achieve more in my next three years with Arsenal. One chapter has closed and the other one has opened even more, that’s how it feels for me.”
Despite having had his abilities called into question on occasion Mertesacker has now established himself as one of Wenger’s best players. His centre-back pairing with Laurent Koscielny has given the Gunners defensive solidity in the wake of Vermaelen’s exit and his experience has been vital to the youngsters looking to develop in the first-team.
Having moved to Arsenal in 2011 the dominant centre-back was forced to wait until this summer to pick up his first major trophy with the club. Last campaign’s F.A Cup success alleviated some of the pressure on the squad but now that the German contingent have claimed football’s biggest prize they are unlikely to want to cede any silverware to their rivals.
Arsenal at the World Cup
Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski were all part of the German side which beat Argentina 1-0 in extra-time at the Maracana to clinch the World Cup, though the former announced that the match would be his last soon after.
At 30 it remains to be seen how much longer he can compete at the highest level, though the routine international breaks, that he will no longer have to play in, will give his body the rest required to maintain optimum fitness.
It’s no doubt a concept Wenger will be happy with, having seen his side ravaged by injury in recent weeks. Ozil was the latest to be ruled out of contention for the foreseeable future, with a serious injury to his left knee having been identified by an MRI scan undertaken whilst on international duty.
On top of Ozil both Olivier Giroud and Mathieu Debuchy are sidelined for at least the next month, meaning that Wenger will be forced to shuffle his squad around if he is to have usual first-team players filling every spot in the starting XI.