Per Mertesacker has thanked the Arsenal fans for the welcome that he received when he made his first appearance at the Emirates Stadium this season on Wednesday night.
The towering centre-back returned to first-team duties at home in the Gunners’ Champions League play-off tie against Besiktas, and it was certainly an eventful comeback.
Arsene Wenger’s side had gone into the game as heavy favourites to make it into Europe’s elite competition, but they were given an almighty scare by their Turkish opponents.
The two sides had drawn 0-0 in the first leg of the tie, and Arsenal’s first-half goal from Alexis Sanchez at the Emirates looked to have seen them through.
However, Besiktas fought back in the second half and came desperately close to causing an upset when Mathieu Debuchy’s red card saw the North London outfit having to cling on in the closing stages.
They managed to defend their cleansheet, though, with Mertesacker playing a starring role, and he clearly enjoyed his return even if it was more eventful than most had anticipated.
The 29-year-old had been given an extended leave over the summer after his World Cup-winning campaign with Germany.
Wenger deemed him and his national teammate Mesut Ozil ready for their first home starts of the season in midweek, and the duo are likely to be permanent members of the side from now on.
Mertesacker had formed one of the most imposing partnerships in the Premier League alongside Laurent Koscielny at the heart of Arsenal’s defence last season and will be hoping to show a similar level of form this time around.
Arsenal take on Leicester City on Sunday where they will be looking to make a statement. The Gunners go into the season as one of the leading contenders to claim the league title, but they are yet to hit top form.
However, with their World Cup stars coming back into first-team selection, the Gunners will be hoping to push on, and a game against a newly promoted side will give them the perfect chance to showcase the qualities they have this season.
How vital will Per Mertesacker be for Arsenal this season?