Per Mertesacker: I was ready to join Arsenal a year ago but Werder Bremen blocked the move

German centre-back tells that he consulted with former Gunners Jens Lehmann and Mikael Silvestre about a move to the Premier League which he thought had passed him by
By Wayne Veysey | Chief correspondent

Per Mertesacker has revealed that he would have joined Arsenal in the summer of 2010 had his move not been blocked by Werder Bremen.

The giant centre-half had given up hope of his dream switch to the Premier League until Arsene Wenger got in touch last month, three days before the end of the summer transfer window.

“I found out [about the Arsenal move] three days before the window closed,” Mertesacker told after his team’s 2-1 Champions League win over Olympiakos. “I did not know before. I was with Bremen in a good situation in the Bundesliga. I was the captain and was involved in everything to do with the club. My mind was there.

“Then Arsene Wenger called my agent and said that ‘perhaps you can be my man’ or something like this. I had to do what he wanted because, one year before, he asked for me and the [general] manager of Werder Bremen, Klaus Allofs, didn’t let me go.”

Mertesacker, who turned 27 on Wednesday, did not take long to accept Wenger’s offer to move to north London.

“I had to do it very quickly but that was kind of my wish to go to the English league a couple of years ago," he said.

“It is a big challenge for me and I said to my family and friends that if everybody agrees with this change, let’s do this together.

“It is totally different, especially in the training. There are more passing sessions every day compared to other clubs. There are the little things - games every four days, the Champions League as well, which is a great challenge for me and the club, and a very young team with potential.”

Mertesacker, who has started all five of Arsenal’s Premier League and Champions League fixtures since his deadline day move from Bremen, is unconcerned that he has joined the club at a time when they are struggling to reach the heights of previous seasons.

“I want to be part of this club, that was one my main reasons for coming here,” the defender said. “We have to do it in as quick and short a time as possible.

“We have good players who are not in the team and are on their way to fitness. When everybody gets fit we will have a great team. Until that day, everybody has to improve and adapt very quickly to this league and to London.

“We want to go through the Champions League, we want to go up the Premier League. We have great targets to come.”

Mertesacker has followed the path trodden by Jens Lehmann from the Bundesliga to Arsenal and admitted he spoke regularly to the goalkeeper about the club during their time together with the Germany national team.

He explained: “I got some advice from Jens. He was my goalkeeper since the 2006 World Cup. He gave me a lot of advice about the game in England. Living in London is very different to living in a little town in Germany. I got a lot of advice from Mikael Silvestre, who I played with last year.

“The Premier League is more intense, quicker and very physical. I have had to get used to it very quickly. Hopefully I will in the next few weeks.”

Next on the horizon for Mertesacker is Sunday’s mouthwatering north London derby against resurgent rivals Tottenham.

He continued: “A lot of people have been telling me about it, how massive it is and what a special experience. I am looking forward to it. It is an especially important game for Arsenal and for me. There is nothing similar in Germany. You cannot compare Bremen against Hamburg because they are not quite in the same city, so the London derby is bigger.

“In Germany I already know everything, I know every stadium. In a new league everything is different and new to me. Some players said a lot of things which I have to do on Sunday. I have to do this experience on my own.”

Mertesacker’s direct opponent at White Hart Lane is likely to be Tottenham striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who has scored three goals in three games at the start of his season-long loan spell.

“He is tall but very quick in his movement and scores a lot of goals at Tottenham, Arsenal and Real Madrid,” said Mertesacker. “He is a fantastic striker and you have to be careful.”