Out-of-favour Arsenal star admits he is not used to being left out when fully fit

Per Mertesacker is surprised to have been left out for the Gunners in recent weeks.

Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has admitted to German outlet Sport 1 that he is not used to being left out of the starting XI when fully fit but insisted he will remain professional, as quoted by the Daily Star.

The German centre-back missed around a month of action earlier in 2016 due to injury, but has struggled to regain his regular spot in Arsene Wenger's side since returning to fitness.

The 31-year-old has been an unused substitute in each of the Gunners last three matches since the home FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Watford on 13 March, with Wenger instead preferring the partnership of Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel Paulista.

Mertesacker, a World Cup-winning centre-back, admitted to Sport 1 that this is an unusual situation for him to be in, but insisted that he will not give up on retaining his place.

The defender said, as quoted by the Daily Star: "I have to admit that this is something new to me. I have been around for quite a while and this has not happened to me before. I am fully match fit, but I am not playing as much as before.

"But I will not give up. I might get another chance. Things can change very fast in football. Every footballer has his ups and downs. You always have to remain professional. I have always done so. That's why I've survived in the business this long.

"I am listening to the manager and he knows he can count on me, regardless of what happens.  I want to show on the training pitch that I am ready whenever the manager needs me. The team needs every player, so you cannot rule anything out. I have to remain positive. That's the best way to deal with the disappointment of warming the bench."

Mertesacker has largely been a regular for Arsenal since his arrival from Werder Bremen five years ago, making over 200 appearances for the North London club.

The centre-back's contract at the Emirates Stadium expires at the end of next season, and reports last month suggested that the club will not look to extend that deal any further.

Although Wenger's side lost 3-1 to Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the first match since Mertesacker was dropped, the club have recorded back-to-back clean sheets in the last two league matches with Koscielny and Gabriel at the heart of defence.

Mertesacker may insist that he will not give up on regaining his place, but if he fails to re-establish himself by the start of next season, his Arsenal career will be entering its twilight.

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