Arsenal were 'knackered' in derby draw with Tottenham - Per Mertesacker
Published 09/11/2015 | 04:36
Per Mertesacker has revealed that Arsenal's players were "knackered" as they laboured to a draw at home to rivals Tottenham.
The Gunners had Kieran Gibbs' first Barclays Premier League goal in more than three years to thank for rescuing a point after Harry Kane had given Spurs the lead in the north London derby.
Sunday's 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium was not enough to take second-placed Arsenal to the top, but means they remain unbeaten in the league since defeat at Chelsea on September 19.
This result came on the back of a 5-1 Champions League thrashing against Bayern Munich and, with seven injured players on the sidelines, Mertesacker believes those who are in the side have been feeling the strain.
"It was fun to play but we all looked a bit knackered, especially in the first half," he said.
"We gave absolutely everything to get a draw here and we will enjoy next weekend off, a few of us, then back to duty the next week.
"We stayed with the same line-up as against Munich apart from Gabriel, and even (Tottenham) played on Thursday but they looked fresh in the first half and then suffered in the second.
"It is difficult to explain but to sum it up both teams gave their all on the pitch and that is why it was a joy not only to watch and a joy to play, especially in the second half."
Aaron Ramsey, Hector Bellerin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could all return soon after the international break to ease the injury concerns of manager Arsene Wenger, who conceded ahead of the game he was worried by the sheer number of players on the treatment table.
Mertesacker, too, feels there is only so long the Gunners can paper over the cracks, with the World Cup winner looking forward to welcoming his team-mates back.
"It is very important (to have them back)," he said.
"Over a short period you can replace a couple of players, but with two games a week - and the intensity will not lessen - you need a lot of players who can replace each other and come and give energy.
"That is important. It is how we beat Bayern Munich, Theo (Walcott) played for 75 minutes and then Olivier (Giroud) came on and gave us a different style and had a massive impact on the game. We need game changers.
"That is why with injuries we suffer a bit, but I'm convinced that after the international break we will have more options and therefore more confidence.
"At times we need to give more and be more convincing with our game plan. There is room for improvement but we are in a good position and we want to continue that unbeaten streak.
"Obviously with players coming back we will gain some more energy. You could see today how great it was to have Gibbs on the bench - he gave us a big lift we he came on, he was fresh and gave everyone a lift with the goal."
One concern for Wenger will be the travel times for the likes of Alexis Sanchez and David Ospina, who will link up with Chile and Colombia respectively, while fit-again defender Laurent Koscielny has been called up by France and could come up against Gibbs, who is in Roy Hodgson's England squad.
But if they and Arsenal's other internationals come through unscathed, the FA Cup holders will be in a strong position to continue their Premier League title tilt in the run-up to Christmas.