Arsenal appoint Per Mertesacker as captain for the new season

Arsenal appoint Per Mertesacker as captain for the new season

Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has been handed the captain’s armband by Arsene Wenger for the new Premier League season.

Mertesacker, 31, had seemed the likely choice for the captaincy until he sustained a knee injury last month that needed surgery, with Wenger having said the German isn’t expected back for a few months.

But the Arsenal boss has handed the centre-back the armband regardless, and said vice-captains Laurent Koscielny and Santi Cazorla will fill in until Mertesacker returns.

“Per is a very respected figure in the dressing room, is loved as well and is also a very demanding figure. I think it is absolutely natural to be [him],” Wenger toldArsenal Player.

“[In his absence] that’s where it will be taken by the assistants. One of them will be [Laurent] Koscielny, also [Santi] Cazorla — the experienced players — Cech maybe. “We will have a group of people that will take care of the energy levels and the problems of the team. That will be down a lot to the experienced players.”

Mertesacker replaces Mikel Arteta, who retired as a player when his contract expired in June and has joined Manchester City’s coaching staff under fellow Spaniard Pep Guardiola.

Arteta also missed much of last season with injuries and struggled to make the first-team even when fit. As did his predecessor Thomas Vermaelen before being sold to Barcelona, and this will be the fourth season in a row where Arsenal have a captain who won’t be a regular on the pitch — at least not until after Christmas.

Midfielder Jack Wilshere added: “It is good news for us. For me anyway, over the last few seasons he has been like a captain,” Wilshere told the Arsenal website. “He is a natural leader and I know he has picked up a injury, but he can still bring so much to us as a team. I’m sure if you ask the other boys, they will say he would be an obvious choice for captain. We are happy.

“He is organised, and he won’t take any nonsense from anyone. If someone is late or on their phone, he is on to them – it doesn’t matter who you are. He is the one who organises our team dinners so for me he is a great choice.”

Mertesacker wore the armband as one of the few veterans who played against Lens in preseason — and did so for much of last season when Arteta was out injured — and called upon every player in the team to provide leadership on the pitch earlier this summer.

“Everyone needs to take responsibility, especially in preseason and show himself from his best side. I think everyone does it,” the centre-back told ESPN FC.

“And in the end, the manager makes his decisions on that front, who’s going to play and what are his plans for next season and for the future. I think there’s a lot more to discuss that are more interesting than the captain’s armband. I get along with any decision he takes because for me it doesn’t matter if I wear the band or not.”

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