While many would like to believe all the Arsenal players are super best friends who have table-tennis tournaments and sleepovers together, there’s always tension in any football team, but Per Mertesacker believes Arsenal became a bit too nice at times last season.
In the wake of heavy defeats last season, the former German international feels that more ought to have been said, but that’s no longer the case and healthy discussion takes place in the dressing room in order to correct things that have gone wrong.
“You need that arguing culture,” he said. “We lost that at times. It gets personal, and someone gets upset too quickly, but you have to face the truth and have a proper argument. That was normal 10 years ago and it has slightly changed.
“We lost that a bit, what is the intention of argument. It’s really important, not only in general, but in a footballer’s life.
“It has to get louder sometimes. We need to discuss, to find solutions, to get everyone in one direction. We had to think about how we can play better, especially defensively.
“We slightly changed approach and defended much better at Man City, even at Chelsea, when we lost 2-0.
“We decided to play more the easy ball, the secure ball, to not get exposed that quickly, and to drop off at times, and just be in good shape. You could see that. That was the benchmark for me, at Man City, how we played there. They couldn’t score against us.
“You learn a lot from defeats. As well, you need to learn from victories. That’s even more important, not to drop a single second.”
And with Arsenal’s form much improved from the first half the season, Per puts that down to better relationships between the players.
“Automatisms – when you know players better, especially your partner – are a big part of a footballer’s life,” he said.
“In the first 10 games, we had literally 10 different back fours, due to injuries, and we had to cope with that. It took its time. As a team, we look quite sharp defensively, not only relying on the back four. There’s more team effort, I feel.
“The post-World Cup difficulties were a new experience for the group, so it took us a long time due to injuries, lack of form.
“Everyone who was at the World Cup suffered an injury or lack of form. Now, slowly, as players come back, everyone needs to deliver and I think the selection is good at the moment.”
And let’s hope they can pick up where they left off before the Interlull against Liverpool tomorrow.