Arsenal vice-captain Per Mertesacker believes that Arsene Wenger deserves huge credit for the upturn in form which has seen the Gunners rattle off seven successive Premier League victories, because of the 'absolutely amazing' trust he has in his often-criticised squad to deliver under pressure.
Wenger and his under-performing squad came in for huge criticism during the first half of the season, with Mertesacker among the established first-team regulars who failed to hit the ground running after returning from last summer's World Cup.
The Gunners have taken their sweet time to find form but a run of 15 wins from their 17 matches shows Wenger's faith was justified, something Mertesacker was keen to stress following Saturday's 4-1 success over Liverpool.
Per proud of 'Inner Core'
Mertesacker shared his pride in the response of his Arsenal side over the last three months, telling the club's official website: “I am delighted with how the team responded to the criticism that came our way because it is a completely new experience for a lot of players to have post-World Cup difficulties.
“But the belief and trust of the manager and the inner core of the club has been absolutely amazing. This means more to me than what happened in the first few months with the lack of form and the criticism.
“We are in a good position now [but at the start] we suffered a lot of injuries to players who were amazing last season, so we had to replace them with youngsters.
“But there was always good energy because they proved they can deliver good performances for the team and that raised everyone’s level. I am delighted with the team’s performances throughout the year.”
Nagging sense of what might have been
Mertesacker definitely has a point when he mentions injuries to key players right throughout a topsy-turvy campaign at the Emirates, with his partner in crime Laurent Koscielny nursing tendinitis in Achilles tendons as just one example of that misfortune.
Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud have also both missed three months of the season apiece, which does leave Arsenal fans wondering if that seven-point gap between the Gunners and Chelsea at the top of the table could be significantly smaller if that pair had been fit and firing all year.
Arsenal still have the chance to finish second, retain the FA Cup and make something of a statement of intent by beating Chelsea when they meet in the Premier League later this month, which would surely represent a successful season featuring significant progression.
Gunners fans would have surely taken that back in December, particularly following a dreadful 45-minute display against Stoke City which was easily one of the worst starts to a match the club have seen across Wenger's near two-decade tenure in North London.
Wenger now has reason to be optimistic about what this Arsenal squad can achieve in the final two years of his current contract, with belief now clearly strong in the Gunners camp.
Arsenal fans, how excited are you about Wenger's squad when everyone is fully fit? Do additions still need to be made this summer despite a tremendous recent run? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below!
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