Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker is confident that the arrival of compatriot Lukas Podolski over the summer will go a long way in changing the team’s reputation as one that cracks easily under pressure.
The Gunners’ fragile reputation is largely attributable to seven straight years without a trophy with a relatively inexperienced squad that has lost influential stars such as Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, and Samir Nasri over the course of the dry spell.
With skipper Robin van Persie being the only top international in the team, manager Arsene Wenger acted quickly to secure Podolski’s signature from Bundesliga side Cologne before the current season even concludes.
Mertesacker, who was also signed by Wenger in a deadline-day move from Werder Bremen last August, has emphasized the importance of Podolski as a game-changer in Arsenal’s bid to compete for the title next season.
“When he feels he has to be there for the team and when we needed a goal, he was always there. He was always one of the best players on the pitch and nothing could take him down. He is so confident and that is what I like,” Mertesacker explained in a recent interview with Arsenal Player.
Moving on to the technical abilities of Podolski, the Germany defender added: “He is a fantastic striker. Everywhere he has played he has scored a lot of goals. He is very good on his first left [touch] when he has the ball in front of him, that is a big quality and very good for us.”
It is no secret that Mertesacker has been active in understanding the London lifestyle and advising his fellow Germans about the experience of playing in the English top flight.
Arsenal teenager Thomas Eisfeld has described the giant defender as his mentor in adapting to the Premier League’s demands and it is well known that Mertesacker has frequently advised Podolski throughout the transfer talks.
When asked to elaborate on his conversations with Podolski, Mertesacker was quick to assert that the former Cologne forward’s skill set makes him a natural fit for the Premier League’s physical style and thus, it did not take too much effort to convince him about a move to Arsenal.
Mertesacker continued: “I am happy that he is joining us here and I think he is very happy too. I spoke to him several times and gave good references to this club. He will enjoy his time here.
“I think he has good physical power and that is what is needed in the Premier League. He is very quick too. It is a challenge for him but he can cope with it.”
Speaking of challenges, Arsenal will have to cope with a big one this weekend without Podolski; to guarantee automatic Champions League qualification, they must beat West Bromwich Albion away from home and secure the three points that would spell the end of Tottenham and Newcastle’s third-place hopes.