Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker claims the hangover he and his other team-mates suffered following the 2014 World Cup last summer is to blame for the club's failure to land the Premier League title this season.
The Germany international says it took the best part of six months to get over the euphoria that comes with winning the biggest prize in world football, and by the time the team was back on track they'd left themselves with too much to do to close down runaway leaders Chelsea.
Mertesacker was one of three German players in the Gunners squad that tasted sweet success in Brazil, with Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski also affected by the lack of pre-season training due to the extended holiday they took upon the completion of the major tournament.
Ozil's fitness and form suffered as a result, while Podolski's impact during the first half of 2014/15 was so minimal that he was allowed to leave the Emirates Stadium on loan during the January transfer window.
Mertesacker was the only one of the trio to avoid any injury setback, but he still feels it took him too long to get back up to speed to the necessary level to compete in the Premier League.
“We had a kind of post-World Cup trauma for half a year," he was quoted saying by the Daily Mirror. "The first months, in particular, were quite difficult to come back and to come down and to forget that, forget that feeling of being World Cup champion.
"That's what you need to have, you need to forget about that, to come down a bit, to calm down and to restart. That took nearly half a year to realise that.
"Most of the players got injured, I avoided that but didn't play at my best, but that was because I hadn't experienced this feeling before. I didn't know how to handle the situation. I tried to forget about that, about the World Cup.
"At one point I was happy not to get an injury, but on the other hand it was very difficult to find the form and the fitness, because we hadn't had that pre-season and the season was already being played when we just started. It was very strange."
He added: "Mentally it effects your body as well you know. You can't say one or the other. It was just the whole thing. Without pre-season, physically as well to come back to compete at Premier League level.
"I knew maybe there would be some criticism to form, but I didn't get injured so I tried to prepare even more – doing more yoga, more treatment, more things like that to come to a certain level where I can compete again. From my experience, it took half a year."
It wasn't until the turn of the year that Arsenal started to put together a regular run of form, with nine consecutive victories in all competitions between March and the middle of April perhaps the highlight of their season so far.
That impressive period helped the Gunners secure third place in the Premier League table and automatic qualification for next year's Champions League, while they still have the FA Cup final to look forward to against Aston Villa at Wembley on Saturday.
Arsenal fans: Do you agree with Per Mertesacker's assessment that the club's poor start to the 2014/15 campaign is what cost them the Premier League title? Can they make up for that disappointment by retaining the FA Cup this weekend? Have your say below…
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