Welcome back. A quick round-up for you this evening and I’ll start with some words from our vice-captain Per Mertesacker.
Having lost his starting place to Gabriel in recent weeks, the German World Cup winner has revealed he’s unaccustomed to his current status as back-up, but far from throwing his toys out of the pram and demanding more action, Mertesacker says he has his chin up and will wait for his chance. He said:
I’ve got to admit it is new to me. I’ve been around a long time now and this has not so often been the case, but I’m in good spirits, am fit and I have no pain. Of course I’m playing less, but I’m sticking at it. Maybe I’ll get another chance. Things change quickly nowadays. You get ups and downs as a footballer and you’ve just got to remain professional, and I’ve always been that down the years. That’s why I’ve survived for so long in this business. I listen closely to what the coach says and he knows that he can count on me, no matter what happens. I want to show him in every training session that I’m ready when needed. The team needs every player, whether I’m on the bench now or not – I don’t just write it off. I always look ahead positively and that is the best way to get over the disappointment of not playing.
He may lack pace, but Per’s attitude is clearly faultless. Even if ideally I’d love a top-quality new arrival in central defence, I really hope we keep hold of Mertesacker because as a personality and a professional, he’s a big asset for Arsenal in my opinion.
The defender also gave his take on this season’s Premier League title race and thinks the Gunner’s still have a good chance of upsetting the odds and nicking the crown. He said:
It’s not totally over yet. If we win all of our matches, then we’ve got a good chance. We’ve got to keep focusing on that and that’s why we’re taking things game by game. We’re trying to concentrate fully on our next game against West Ham. We have a bit more time now that we’re not in any other competition so we don’t have to concentrate on anything else, other than the title.
Meanwhile, Mohamed Elneny has been speaking about winning the official website’s Player of the Month award for March and promising there is a lot more to come from him in an Arsenal shirt. He said:
I am very happy to be Player of the Month for such a big club. It feels very good, it will motivate me to have more faith as I play in the team and it shows how the fans love and believe in me. It is very helpful to feel that you are loved by the people in the club and the fans – and I still have more to give the team. So, I would like to thank all the people who nominated me. This is just the beginning. Hopefully, I will contribute more and more to the team in the future.
And finally for today, The Daily Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson reckons Arsenal may look to internal options as well as new recruits, when bolstering their central midfield this summer after the anticipated departures of the likes of Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky.
Wilson suggests Gedion Zelalem, on-loan at Rangers this season, will be given a chance to prove himself in pre-season and cement a place in our first-team squad for next season. I’ll admit I haven’t paid much attention to how Zelalem’s been getting on in Scotland but what’s beyond debate is that he’s a brilliant passer from in front of the defence and we could do with more of those.
Aside from Santi Cazorla and Elneny, we haven’t got too many of that tempo-dictating ilk at the club, so I suppose he has a good chance to establish himself over the course of the next campaign like fellow teenager Alex Iwobi has done this. Time will tell and my guess is that it’ll be his physical readiness, rather than any doubts over his his footballing ability, that will decide his short-term future.