Per Mertesacker admits Arsenal’s ‘confidence is shot’ and he is ‘struggling’ after Germany’s World Cup triumph
It was a dramatic headline in the Independent and it sent shock waves through the brains of a lot of fans. Well, some at least.
But then, slowly, it became clear that this story was not all it seemed to be. As we dug around and looked at exactly what Per said, it really didn’t quite seem to make sense.
Now let me say, in case you don’t get to Arsenal games, that Per has a very special place in Arsenal’s current situation. Not just because he gives his all in games, not just because he is a world cup winner, but because of his interaction with the crowd. He stays on the pitch after the game. He walks to the north bank and waves at those of us who stay to wave back. He really does care.
So Per Mertesacker saying that he is “struggling for form in the aftermath of Brazil, is typical Per. Honest. Self-deprecating even. But saying that the teams “confidence is shot”… wow. That is taking it a bit far. It must be bad.
Thus we read with interest. The headline, as printed above, used the inverted commas, the speech marks. This was a real, actual quote, using his own words.
He was speaking after the last minute triumph over Anderlecht. And what exactly did he say? Well the Independent quoted that headline and added that Per also said, the team’s, “passing game is off”.
But what we were looking for was the actual quote, the actual words, the sentence that included the “confidence is shot” quote.
“Everyone knows that it was a difficult start for us and our confidence is not that much how we wanted it. The character is good, the mentality is good but football-wise, we lack a few things.
“Our passing game is not as efficient as last year. We are not at our best. We have to admit that, be honest with ourselves and train harder.”
OK that’s fair enough. Honest, to the point. Welcome.
He went on, “For me, it is difficult at the moment because that was really a long season last year and to come back from that World Cup and get the motivation
“With those games, the belief and the mentality is there but the motivation will come back. We didn’t even have time to celebrate properly, that was the first thing. But you realise month after month what happened. Maybe in five or 10 years you can really realise what was going on there. We came back to Berlin, got on the stage, waved our hands, showed the World Cup and then everyone disappeared to their families to get some holidays, some rest, calm.
“That was really difficult, to get into a proper holiday. The restart is more in your head than anything else. That was really a problem. But I am happy not to have picked up an injury yet and I am confident that I have already been through the dangerous period. I am really happy that I am fit and ready for the proper fight during the winter period.
“It is harder mentally because I started literally when the season started. I have never experienced that. It is at least two or three weeks before the season started, usually, but we had already won a cup, the Community Shield, and I wasn’t there at that time, I was still on holiday. That was something really strange for us to think about.”
And the “confidence is shot” quote? Not a sign of it.
But ok, maybe the editor cut it. Let’s go searching elsewhere. The Guardian is never a paper to let a good quote slip, or a chance to knock the Arsenal, go by. What did they say?
“Per Mertesacker has offered a candid and damning assessment of Arsenal’s shortcomings this season, saying that the intricate passing game is misfiring, there are issues at the back and the collective confidence is low.”
OK that is similar ground but not quite at the frenetic “confidence is shot” level. There is also the usual Guardian chatter about “sneaking” a win. Notice it is our fault if we concede in the last minute, but “sneaking a win” if we do it to the opposition. Hey ho, that’s how it goes.
And injuries were no longer on the agenda. Now “the most worrying being the poor quality of their passing.” OK I thought it was the confidence, but I can re-work that.
And then we are into the passing game comments, reassuringly similar to those in the Indy.
On confidence he said, “Everyone knows that it is a difficult start to the season for us, and confidence is not that much how we want it. But the character is good and the mentality is good.”
Mert also had a good word for Podolski. “He showed with his clinical finish. You can wake him up any second in the day and he will score with his left foot. I would say he’s the best finisher I’ve played with. You can see that every day in training. Even with the side of his foot, he has power. We play a lot of football around the box but when it comes to finishing and shooting, we lack that. So he gives us another quality.”
Positive stuff, but of course that didn’t make the headline. But to be fair to the Guardian, they did publish it. Indeed they published some positive stuff, “It is 100 days after the World Cup so I think it is time to raise the game, raise the mentality. It was good for me to retire so I can completely focus on Arsenal and not switch off and on every two or three weeks. Slowly, it is going to start. The season is going to start.”
And what of the paper at the heart of the battle for the heart and mind of the PGMOL – the Telegraph.
They started with force: “Per Mertesacker has a delivered a blunt appraisal of Arsenal’s struggles this season, admitting that the squad lacks confidence and must work harder in training to have more variation in their playing style.”
After that it is a combination of the quotes in the other papers. But the Telegraph, never one to let a chance to hit someone go by adds,
“It adds up a to fairly damning critique of a season.” Maybe.
But “confidence is shot”? Well it appeared in a headline with the inverted commas, suggesting it was said. But it seems it wasn’t. It was made up by a journalist.
The quote gave the impression of an Arsenal meltdown, a theme taken up with vigour by the AAA, but it was all make believe. One dozy journalist playing a little game and the story spreads among the headless chickens.
It was ever thus. Candid, damning, blunt? Not from what I read. Honest and straightforward. Trouble is, I doubt that after this sort of editorial he’ll be so open again.
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