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Arsenal boss admits Premier League was “a shock” to Arsenal star

Per Mertesacker. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire Per Mertesacker. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Tuesday, November 20, 2012
3:13 PM

Arsene Wenger has praised Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker for his performances this season but admits he struggled to adapt to the Premier League after his arrival last summer.

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The Germany international was signed from Werder Bremen on deadline day last year, and had a hard time with form and injuries in his first season in England.

This season, however, Mertesacker has held down his place in the side with some impressive performances at the heart of the Gunners’ defence.

Wenger admits the 28-year-old had a difficult first season but insists the criticism levelled at him “went overboard”.

“To his defence I must say last year he arrived on August 31, and had no pre-season, had an ankle injury and had to adapt to a completely new world,” said the Arsenal manager.

“Centre back is difficult for people who come from abroad, it was a bit of a shock for him, but this season he has come back very fit, well prepared, and of course knew what the expectations were for him and did extremely well.

“This season especially, as you [the media] have noticed, he has been outstanding.

He continued: “The criticism was always completely unjust. It was overboard, we always say you have to deal with that.

“There is only one thing you can do as a football player at the top level, and that is to turn the critics down with your performances, and that is what he did.

“For the rest, you have to let people say what they want and show on the pitch they are wrong, that is all you can do.”

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Arsenal

Nickname: The Gunners.

Ground: Emirates Stadium (capacity 60,361).

Founded: 1886.

Honours: First Division (until 1992) and Premier League: 1931, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1938, 1948, 1953, 1971, 1989, 1991, 1998, 2002, 2004.

FA Cup: 1930, 1936, 1950, 1971, 1989, 1991, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005.

League Cup: 1987, 1993.

Fairs Cup: 1970.

Cup Winners’ Cup: 1994.

Leading goalscorer: Thierry Henry, 228.

Leading appearances: David O’Leary, 722.