Arsene Wenger says Per Mertesacker has built his career by being ‘totally focused’ and believes the former Germany international will miss playing football when he retires despite his recent comments to the contrary.
Last week, in a frank interview with homeland publication Der Spiegel, the World Cup winner opened up on the physical and mental strain he’s endured during his football career and why he’ll be glad to put such stress behind him when he swaps playing for his new role heading up the Arsenal Academy.
“I think that will go very quickly,” Wenger told his pre-AC Milan press conference when quizzed on Mertesacker’s assessment that he’d rather not play again.
“Once you stop, after a few months you’re ready to play again. Of course, he has had a very long career. Per puts pressure on himself in every single training session.
“He never plays one minute without being totally focused. That demands a huge amount of effort and it’s why he’s made the career he’s had as well.”
On Mertesacker’s assessment that some of his recurring injuries were psychological and that combating stress has been a regular issue, Wenger went on: “How do I respond to that? I know that. It’s not a surprise to me. To be a professional football player is about facing a huge level of expectation.
“First of all from yourself because these players are at the level that they are because they’re very demanding with themselves. That creates stress of course, and the huge expectation level from the environment also creates the stress.
“To play at the level they play at today, you need to have a huge resistance to stress. Somewhere you’re a little bit dependent on your body.
“To express what you want to do, you always need your body to be at your service and that creates stress because you never know how your body will respond, how well you will feel, how much your reflexes will be there in a game. It’s always an uncertainty that creates the stress.”
All in all, very supportive from the boss. Mertesacker hasn’t played for the first team since Arsenal’s FA Cup third round exit at the hands of Nottingham Forest.