The BFG and Former Arsenal Captain
Full Name: Per Mertesacker
Birthdate: September 29, 1984
Place of Birth: Hannover, Germany
Playing years: 1998 to Present
Position(s): Defense centre-back
Per Mertesacker first stood on the pitch at the age of four in Pattensen where his father was a youth coach for the local team. After years of training under his gesamtschule’s sports program, he made his senior league debut for HSV as a field defender. He steadily proved himself to be disciplined and effective in obstructing goals from opposing teams. He became widely known in Germany as the “Defense Pole” and “Mr. Clean” for having played 31 matches in Bundesliga without a yellow card.
Notable Skills/Style of Play
-Strong tackling ability
-Excellent defensive organizer
-Good positional play
-Remarkable ball distribution
Mertesacker has had an early start in the international arena as a go-to centre-back; playing against Iran by the age of 20. In 2006, he participated in 18th FIFA World Cup for Germany and played central defense with Cristoph Metzelder. His country lost to Italy in the semi, but his masterly performance earned him a place in Werder Bremen. He was also first choice in the UEFA Euro 2008 qualification. However, his team lost out to Spain in the finals at 1-0. He was again drafted for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers and in 2014, with his fellow players in top form, Germany won the World Cup against Brazil. He later announced his retirement from the national team, saying winning the World Cup was the best possible end and that he is giving way for younger players to take over.
His move to Werder Bremen at €5 million transfer deal was not without a hitch. He missed the first few months of the season following an injury at the 2006 World Cup but more than made up for it when he scored his debut goal for the team in Premier League match against Chelsea. He was part of the starting eleven in almost all of The Green-Whites’ fixtures and they finished as runners-up behind Bayern Munich in that season.
In 2011, English football club Arsenal signed Mertesacker and the German giant quickly became an integral part of Wenger’s starting team. He helped The Gunners in numerous victories over the next seasons while keeping clean sheets. He netted his first goal for Arsenal in a 5-2 victory over Tottenham Hotspur and was consequently voted as man of the match in the draw with The Villa. He was assigned as captain for Arsenal’s FA Cup win over The Seagulls. The 6 ’6” defender earned the moniker BFG (Big F***ing German) among Arsenal fans for his towering presence in the field. In season 2013-2014, he was voted as part of Premier League Team of the Year and he made his 100th appearance for Arsenal in an away win against Aston Villa. He was named captain of the team after Mikel Arteta’s departure. Several football managers have commended his showing both in the field and the backroom. Arsène Wenger cited him as an important leader and Antonio Conte stated that Mertesacker is a perfect example for any young professional football player.
Arsenal Academy Manager
Just last year, the Arsenal captain has decided that his time as a player is up, opting to take on the new role of Arsenal Academy manager come the end of the season. This May, his professional playing career spanning 15 years, 221 Bundesliga matches, 155 Premier League games, and 104 international duels finally took the curtain call. He has stated in interviews that doctors have warned of his cartilage damage and that he will also be retiring for the sake of his children. The BFG has been candid about the physical and mental struggles he had to go through as a player. But the support from the fans, especially the kids, had pushed him to give his all in every game. He’ll be taking over the Academy months from now and he says he plans to attack the system.
The former Arsenal captain played his final game at the Emirates last 7th of May in a 5-0 win over Burnley which was also Arsène Wenger final home game as manager. Mertesacker came in at the 77th minute as a substitute and the crowd greeted him with loud cheers. He was handed a guard of honor after the match for his service to the club. He even held up a banner containing his famous initials BFG and later took to Twitter to show his appreciation.
To the great Per Mertesacker, we say “Merci!” and “Auf Wiedersehen!”
Mertesacker is set to stay behind the scenes in Arsenal to groom young players competent enough to play for first team. Such an inspiring figure can only elicit pure talent and determination from players.
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