Per Mertesacker was our hero in the FA Cup Final against Chelsea last season, and he was called up again for Arsenal’s first defence of the trophy we have won for the last two years. But today he was extremely unimpressed with the Gunners reserves and he thinks they did not try hard enough to show that they could win a place in the Arsenal first team, in fact he was very scathing of his team-mates when he was asked about today’s performance. “It’s pretty easy. The manager made a lot of changes, gave a lot of trust to players who haven’t played a lot recently and I don’t think anybody justified their selection today. That sums it up I think.”
He was obviously not very happy, and carried on his criticism when he was asked if the team that was picked simply wasn’t good enough. “It’s difficult.” he replied. “In the first half we played in the park a little bit. We were not precise, especially in the final third. We couldn’t create a lot of chances. In the second half there was a little bit more spirit from ourselves, but in the duels you could see that they out-battled us and that little momentum never really changed.
He said that he thought the ref was wrong to allow the last penalty goal, but he admitted that the players did not turn up after being given a chance to show their worth. “When we scored to make it 3-2 and when he mis-kicked the penalty, obviously we expressed it to the ref but he didn’t listen. It’s difficult to take because for those players who played today, that was probably a last chance to show up and show the manager that they’re ready to play more games. It’s not the case anymore.”
We may now be out of the FA Cup, but we are still in the League Cup semi-final against Chelsea starting on Wednesday, and we are also in the Europa League, so he was reminded that there were still trophies that Arsenal can play for, but he was still unhappy when he replied: “Yes but we wanted the FA Cup. This feels like we had to defend it, but you couldn’t see that we really wanted to defend it. This round is always the toughest. You face a Championship side away and you need to be ready but for the majority of the game, we were not.”
He definitely sounds as unhappy as us fans, but as Wenger refused to talk about the disputed penalty that killed the game off, Mertesacker explained how he saw the situation and whether it should have not been allowed because Kieran Dowell slipped and touched the ball with both feet. “Yes [it was a double contact]. It would’ve been a free-kick for us.” he said. “You could clearly see it, that’s why we shouted to the referee. He didn’t have any explanation and that’s on him. They obviously spoke to each other, and nobody saw the incident. David saw it and all the players did too.”
The veteran German may not have been happy with his fellow players, but he himself looked like a long and lumbering defender that couldn’t cope with the Forest attack. surely he was as big a part of the problem as the others?