2013/14 English Premier League
After making his international debut for Germany as a raw 20-year-old against Iran in 2004, Mertesacker was tipped for the top. He is instantly recognisable standing at a whopping 6ft 6in and uses his height and physique to good effect. In August 2011, Arsenal swooped for him in an eight million pound deal in a bid to shore up their defence.
After coming through the ranks at hometown club Hannover and quickly building a reputation as one of the Bundesliga's most accomplished defenders, Mertesacker's performances at the 2006 World Cup, in partnership with Christoph Metzelder, saw him earn a move to Werder Bremen. After moving to the Hanseatic city, he won the DFB-Pokal in 2009 and finished as a runner-up in the UEFA Cup in the same year, as well as gaining valuable Champions League experience.
Mertesacker made seven appearances during qualifying for the 2010 World Cup finals and Germany conceded just one goal while he was on the pitch. With an ever-growing reputation, Mertesacker was linked with Arsenal and he had said in the past that "you cannot help but enjoy the style with which they play the game.'' He eventually succumbed to the Gunners' advances on deadline day in summer 2011.
The German endured a mixed first season at Arsenal. Composed performances were intertwined with those that included individual errors. His lack of mobility often put Arsenal under defensive pressure and his season ended prematurely after he sustained an ankle injury at Sunderland.
Yet, Mertesacker appeared to find his feet in his second season in North London and only Santi Cazorla featured in more league games than the lofty centre-back. He forged good partnerships with both Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen, helping Arsenal to achieve the second-best defensive record in the Premier League. Having amassed almost a century of international caps for Germany, his leadership has been identified by Wenger who has often handed him the captain's armband in Vermaelen or Arteta's absence.
The Germany defender has also been crucial to Arsenal off-the-pitch, proving influential in deals to bring fellow internationals Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil to the club.
Strengths: At 6ft 6in, Mertesacker is an obvious asset in the air and plays a vital role in swatting away set-pieces. As well as being a commanding influence thanks to his big frame, Mertesacker is also a very clean player and went 31 games without a booking following his Bundesliga debut.
Weaknesses: He lacks acceleration, meaning that he is frequently exploited in one-on-one scenarios, while he also lacks aggression in the tackle.
Career high: Securing his first major trophy when Bremen won the 2009 DFB Pokal, even if Mertesacker did miss the final victory over Bayer Leverkusen due to injury.
Career low: Suffering an extratime defeat to Italy in the semifinal of the 2006 World Cup and then missing the third-place playoff victory over Portugal due to injury.
Style: Imposing, reliable, dominant, an accomplished centre-back.
Quotes: "His experience is vital. Per is a very good player. He reads the ball well. He is clever, attacks the ball and wins headers whereas I can go behind and be quick and cope with the long balls. He is good technically so he is good for the defence. Per is calm on the pitch. He is good for me, he uses his experience, this helps me, and he helps the team," Arsenal centre-back partner Laurent Koscielny, April 2013.
Trivia: In 2006 the defender established the 'Per-Mertesacker-Stiftung' -- a charitable foundation that helps support amateur sportsmen and the poor. He is also referred to by Arsenal fans as the 'BFG', alluding to Roald Dahl's famous literary character.
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