German international Mertesacker has told the London Evening Standard why Arsenal have struggled to compete at the highest level of professional football.
Despite securing a 2-0 victory in Monaco on Tuesday, Arsenal crashed out of the Champions League in the last-16 once again, having lost 3-1 at home in the first-leg.
The inability to progress to the quarter finals of Europe’s premier competition year after year has come to characterise the club, and head coach Arsene Wenger has been criticised for not building a squad capable of competing at the highest level.
However, as their league form shows, the playing squad has enough ability about them to defeat any opposition, and it is usually only in high-intensity games when the Gunners start to suffer. Having lost the first leg to the Ligue 1 side, expectation levels around Arsenal had dipped and they could play without any pressure - resulting in a 2-0 win.
Yet, in the first leg, when they were under pressure to secure a strong home result, they crumbled against an opponent considered much weaker than them. This hints at a problem that extends far beyond the actual technical ability of the playing squad, and central defender Per Mertesacker believes that there is a ‘mental’ issue that prevents Arsenal from competing.
Speaking to the Standard, Mertesacker said: “In the first game, we didn’t have that mental level you need to compete at the highest level. That was missing but you could see last night how good we are as a team and how well organised we can be.
“We need to consider that every day in training and in games. That is why we are so far away from winning the Champions League.”
It is strange for Mertesacker to consider a mental issue in the squad, considering his success on the international stage. As one of the strongest characters at Emirates Stadium, it may be up to him to help turn his teammates into winners.