I am sure that I was not the only Arsenal fan left scratching my head and wondering whether Arsene Wenger had lost his when the Frenchman decided to give the captain’s armband to our German defender Per Mertesacker in the summer. Not because he lacked the right skills, because the World Cup winner is vastly experienced and appears to be a natural leader, but because the Arsenal captaincy had become something of an issue with the former incumbent Mikel Arteta hardly being seen in the first team after being given it.
So with the former German international set for a long injury lay-off it seemed an odd choice for me and as we reported here at Just Arsenal earlier in the week it has now been almost two years since we started a game with the club captain in the side.
The boss clearly has great faith in the cntre back, though, highlighted once again by the decision to take up the option of extending his contract for another year before he has even returned to fitness, as reported by the Evening Standard.
Wenger said of the deal, “He has an option that we have taken. There was no negotiation, just an option that we have taken.
“With the number of games we have, it’s important we have all our experienced players back. Everybody is focused to do well — we are going into the moment of truth now, January until May.
“There are five months to go and ideally you want all your players with big experience back in the squad.”
But we did not have to give the BFG a new contract to keep him in the squad for this season so it is clear that Wenger values him highly and not just for his experience and defensive ability. Perhaps a report on the Arsenal website throws light onto the subject, because the player who has replaced him the side during the injury problem, Shkodran Mustafi, has revealed that Mertesacker has been a big help to him since he came to north London in the summer.
Mustafi said, “Per helped me a lot. When I had just arrived, having a person at the club with so much experience and with the personality he has helped me a lot.
“He helps me on the pitch because when he sees things, he corrected me a few times. He’s not just the type of player who says, ‘You didn’t do that well enough’ or, ‘You have to do it this way’, he tells you why.
“In the short time that I worked with him in the national team, I learned a lot from him.”
Is that why Wenger not only gave the big guy the Arsenal captaincy but also at least one more year at the club?