Ahead of the big Champions League clash on Wednesday between the Gunners and reigning champions Bayern Munich, Bastian Schweinsteiger had nothing but praise for his German national teammate.
Bayern Munich will head to London looking for a repeat performance of last year’s Champions League win at the Emirates. The Germans warmed up for Wednesday’s clash with a scintillating 4-0 victory over Freiburg on Saturday, however they are set to face a different Arsenal team to the one they comfortable dispatched 3-1 at the same stage last season.
Arsenal have improved immensely at the back – especially at the Emirates – conceding just one goal in their last 12 home games in all competitions.
Bayern maestro Bastian Schweinsteiger puts Arsenal’s recent defensive success down to that of national teammate Per Mertesacker, saying:
“For many seasons Arsenal have been admired across Europe for their attacking play – but perhaps where they sometimes let themselves down was in defence.”
“It was always going to take Per time to adjust to a new league – but now we see him for what he is which is one of the best central defenders in Europe with fantastic positional awareness and real leadership qualities.”
Mertesacker has started all but two of Arsenal’s Premier League games so far this campaign, making 42 interceptions and 157 clearances – second only to French centre-back partner Laurent Koscielny as the duo have formed an impressive partnership.
Arsene Wenger knows will recognise the importance of remaining tight at the back against Bayern on Wednesday, and he will be counting on Per Mertesacker to lead from the back and help keep the tie alive for the return leg in March.
How important is Per Mertesacker to this current Arsenal team?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald