Per Mertesacker

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Per Mertesacker
Per Mertesacker 2014 v Palace.jpg
Mertesacker with Arsenal in 2014
Personal information
Full name Per Mertesacker[1]
Date of birth (1984-09-29) 29 September 1984 (age 29)
Place of birth Hanover, West Germany
Height 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in)[2]
Playing position Centre back
Club information
Current club Arsenal
Number 4
Youth career
1988–1995 TSV Pattensen
1995–2003 Hannover 96
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2003–2004 Hannover 96 II 16 (1)
2003–2006 Hannover 96 74 (7)
2006–2011 Werder Bremen 146 (12)
2011– Arsenal 87 (5)
National team
2003 Germany U20 2 (0)
2004 Germany U21 3 (0)
2004– Germany 96 (4)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 00:55, 16 April 2014 (UTC).

† Appearances (Goals).

‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 21:44, 5 March 2014 (UTC)

Per Mertesacker (German pronunciation: [ˈpeːɐ̯ ˈmɛʁtəsʔakɐ]; born 29 September 1984) is a German professional footballer who plays as a centre back for Arsenal and the Germany national team.[3] Mertesacker is a youth product of Hannover 96 and he made his senior league debut in November 2003. Mertesacker was soon dubbed "the Defence Pole" (die Abwehrlatte) by German tabloids and gained a reputation for his good disciplinary record and went 31 Bundesliga games without being booked.[4] Since joining Arsenal, their fans have nicknamed him the BFG, short for "Big Fucking German", but also alluding to Roald Dahl's The BFG due to his height.[5][6] He is described as an imposing, reliable, dominant and an accomplished defender.[7]

With Werder Bremen, Mertesacker has won a DFB-Pokal title and finished runner-up in the 2008–09 UEFA Cup. With his quiet but effective game, he established himself as Germany's first choice centre-back. He has won more than 75 international caps despite his young age. Prior to playing at senior level, he played at under-20 and under-21 level. In September 2004, Jürgen Klinsmann, then-manager of Germany, called Mertesacker up to the 9 October 2004 game against Iran. He made his debut less than two weeks after his twentieth birthday when he came on as a second-half substitute for Christian Wörns. Over the course of his final two seasons at Werder Bremen, the defender received just one yellow card in 63 league matches. He has participated in the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups and the UEFA Euros in 2008 and 2012. In 2006, the defender established the 'Per-Mertesacker-Stiftung', a charitable foundation that helps support amateur sportsmen and the poor.[8][9]

Club career[edit]

Hannover 96[edit]

Mertesacker, a native of Hanover, started out at local club Hannover 96 where he played under his father Stefan, one of the youth coaches,[10] and made his league debut in November 2003 against 1. FC Köln. But even though his abilities were indisputable, Mertesacker at that time was not seen as an exceptional talent and often thought about changing his sports.[11]

Mertesacker, carried out his alternative civilian service during his 'apprenticeship' as a football pro in a center for handicapped people in Hanover.[11] He had an unlucky start for his home club, breaking his nose and conceding an own goal soon after, but he established himself as one of the most promising young defenders in the Bundesliga. The slender Mertesacker was soon dubbed "the Defence Pole" (die Abwehrlatte) by German tabloids and gained a reputation for his good disciplinary record.

His first 31 Bundesliga matches ended without a single Yellow card for the tall defender, bringing him the praise of sports magazine kicker as 'Mr. Clean' of the Bundesliga.[11] He has only been booked twice during his entire career at Hannover.[9] On 13 May 2006, he played his last game for Hannover 96 and fittingly scored the opening goal in a 2–2 draw against Bayer Leverkusen.

During his time at Hannover 96, he was good friends with the late Robert Enke, and along with Michael Ballack, presented the laurel during the memorial in honour of Enke's death. He later started a temporary account through his foundation (Per Mertesacker Stiftung) to collect donations for Enke's widow.[12]

Werder Bremen[edit]

Mertesacker playing for Werder Bremen.

In August 2006 Mertesacker moved to Werder Bremen in a €5 million transfer deal after a highly impressive performance in the 2006 World Cup, in which Germany finished 3rd.[13] Despite missing the first month and a half through an injury sustained at the World Cup, he quickly made the centre back position his own upon his return to the starting eleven.

In November, he scored his debut Champions League goal in a 1–0 win over Chelsea to end the Premier League winners' unbeaten streak in the season's competition. Upon his first return to the AWD-Arena for the first game of the second half of the season, he refused to celebrate after scoring against his boyhood club.[14] The 2007–08 season was a mixed bag for Mertesacker. He started in nearly all of Bremen's league and European fixtures and received his first red card in his professional career in a 6–3 loss against VfB Stuttgart.[15] Bremen finished runners-up in the league despite winning only two games fewer than champions Bayern Munich but they managed to seal a place in next season's Champions League. At the end of the season, he signed a 2-year extension to his original contract.[16]

After returning from the Euro 2008, Mertesacker again missed the beginning of the new season with a knee injury and through illness. In September, he returned to the starting line-up. He scored the opening goal in the German Cup semifinal away at northern rivals Hamburg to break the deadlock after a goalless first half but the home side equalised, forcing the match into extra time and Bremen eventually triumphed 4–2 on penalties. He was ever present for the rest of the season until injury forced him off in the UEFA Cup semifinal second leg against Bundesliga rivals Hamburg.[17] It was later revealed that he had torn ligaments in his right ankle and required surgery. He was ruled out for the rest of the season, as well as the UEFA Cup final loss against Shakhtar Donetsk and German Cup final which they won. He scored four goals in all competitions, including a crucial equalizer against VfL Wolfsburg.

Mertesacker began the 2009–10 season well with a 5–0 win over FC Union Berlin in the DFB-Pokal, the first game of the season. In October, he scored his first goal of the season in a 2–0 win against Hoffenheim and a last-minute equaliser in the clash against table-toppers Bayer Leverkusen in February. He played 33 Bundesliga matches in total, scoring five goals in the process.[18]

In the 2010–11 season, Mertesacker made 30 Bundesliga appearances, scoring two goals. He averaged 46.3 passes per game, the third highest in the Bremen squad, and the second highest pass success rate, with 82%, showing that his game is not simply about winning headers.[19]

Over the course of his final two seasons at Bremen, the giant defender received just one yellow card in 63 league matches. Most people would expect that a central defender of Mertesacker's size would clumsily concede lots of fouls, but in fact, Mertesacker averaged less than one foul per game.[18]



Mertesacker and Arsenal against Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League

On 31 August 2011, Arsenal confirmed they had signed Mertesacker on a four-year contract; this was soon after an 8–2 loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford.[20] He was presented the number 4 shirt previously worn by former team captain Cesc Fàbregas. Mertesacker made his league debut in a 1–0 home win for Arsenal against Swansea City. He played the full 90 minutes. Mertesacker made his UEFA Champions League debut for Arsenal away against Borussia Dortmund, playing the full 90 minutes.He established himself as a starter after a string of impressive performances and an injury to Thomas Vermaelen. Mertesacker says he has had to improve quickly to adapt to the demands of the Premier League since joining Arsenal. He has been criticised for lacking pace and admits the added physicality is new to him.[21] Mertesacker also stated he has failed to reproduce his form due to the English League lacking the winter break that he was used to having in the German League.[22] He then answered to these criticisms by having a great December and also showing that he had adapted to the demands of the league by putting in good performances against Wigan Athletic and Everton, helping Arsenal to end the month with only three goals conceded in six games. On 11 February 2012, Mertesacker suffered an ankle injury in Arsenal's away game to Sunderland, played on a poor Stadium of Light pitch. James McClean put Sunderland 1–0 up as a direct result of Mertesacker's fall, although Arsenal recovered to win 2–1. Mertesacker needed surgery on the ankle, and was ruled out for the rest of the season.


Mertesacker on the ball for Arsenal against Sunderland in 2012

Due to an injury to Laurent Koscielny, Mertesacker was paired with Vermaelen at the centre of the Gunners' defence in the early stages of the season. They formed a strong partnership, with Arsenal conceding only one goal in the opening four games, with Mertesacker putting in a particularly impressive performance in a 2–0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield. He excelled again against Manchester City in a game in which he made seven interceptions and helped Arsenal win a point at the defending title winner's home stadium in a man of the match winning display. The German international was ruled out of Arsenal's next two games against Chelsea and defending Greek champions Olympiacos in the Champion's League with a virus.[23] Mertesacker recovered in time to start and play the whole 90 minutes at Upton Park in a 3–1 away derby victory over West Ham on 6 October. On 17 November, he scored his first goal for Arsenal in a 5–2 win against North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.[24] On 26 January, Mertesacker captained the side for the first time in the FA Cup fourth round, at Brighton & Hove Albion, which Arsenal won 3–2.[25] He scored his second goal for Arsenal against Tottenham, this time in a 2–1 defeat.[26] On 6 April, Mertesacker received his first red card in Arsenal colours after a professional foul on Shane Long in the penalty area. However, Arsenal won the match by 2–1.[27]


Mertesacker was named as the temporary captain of the side after injuries to Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta.[28] He scored his first goal of the season against Stoke City following a free-kick from compatriot Mesut Özil.[29] After his man of the match performance away to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League helped Arsenal to a 1–0 win,[30] Mertesacker's influence was cited as a significant factor in Arsenal's excellent start to the 2013–14 season, which saw the team leading the Premier League at the end of November.[31] As Mertesacker's great run continued, he was voted as a part of the Premier League Team of the Year along with team-mate Aaron Ramsey.[32] On 13 January 2014, Mertesacker made his 100th official appearance for the Gunners in a 1–2 away win over Aston Villa. On 4 March 2014, Mertesacker signed a new contract with the Gunners.[33]

On 12 April 2014, Mertesacker scored an 82nd minute equalising goal for Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final against Wigan Athletic. The match finished 1–1 after extra time with Arsenal winning 4–2 in a penalty shootout.[34]

International career[edit]

In September 2004, Jürgen Klinsmann, then-manager of Germany, called Mertesacker up to the 9 October 2004 game against Iran. He made his debut less than two weeks after his twentieth birthday when he came on as a second-half substitute for Christian Wörns.

With his quiet but effective game, he established himself as Germany's first choice centre-back,[35] pairing up with Robert Huth, Christoph Metzelder, and later, Heiko Westermann. At the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup hosted at home, he played the full 90 minutes in all five games and scored his first international goal in a group stage match against Australia as Germany finished in third place.[36]

At the 2006 FIFA World Cup on home soil, Mertesacker paired with Metzelder in central defence. After Germany won the quarter-final penalty shoot-out against Argentina, Mertesacker was attacked by Argentine Leandro Cufré, an unused substitute. He suffered minor injuries to his thigh and a kick to the groin. After Germany's loss to Italy in the semi-finals, Mertesacker had surgery on one of his legs and left testicle (not related to the attack above, but an injury he had been dealing with during previous matches) and missed the third place play-off. Nevertheless, his good showing did earn him a transfer to Bundesliga giants Werder Bremen after the tournament.

He was first choice when fit during Euro 2008 qualification and was ever present in the final tournament. Due to injury problems at the beginning of the 2009–10 season, he missed several 2010 World Cup qualifiers but has retained his place as first choice since then. Mertesacker regularly wears the number 17 jersey.

Mertesacker scored his second international goal for Germany on 17 October 2012, in a 2014 World Cup qualifier against Sweden.[37] On 13 September 2013, he scored his third goal for Germany against the Faroe Islands. On 19 November 2013, Mertesacker scored the winning goal as Germany beat England 1–0 at Wembley Stadium in a friendly match to mark the 150th anniversary of The Football Association.

Style of play[edit]

At 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in), Mertesacker is commanding in the air but he is also sound in defending on the ground.[38] He often uses his strength to shrug opponents off the ball and his standing tackling ability to win balls.[39] Question marks have been raised about his speed,[40][41] but he compensates for his lack of pace by his excellent positional play and anticipation.[42] Despite his strength and power he is regarded as a clean player as he is rarely booked.[38] Due to his height and strength, Mertesacker is also a scoring threat in set-pieces.[43]

Mertesacker is a good defensive organizer,[44] and a neat distributor of the ball. He averaged 46.3 passes per game in 2010–2011 season, the third highest in the Bremen squad, and the second highest pass success rate, with 82%.[45] In the 2012–13 season with Arsenal he averaged 50.1 passes per game with 91.5% success rate, fourth highest in the League.[46] Often Mertesacker is paired with a more mobile and faster defender who can track-back in counterattack situation like Mats Hummels, Arne Friedrich and Laurent Koscielny, though he had successfully formed one of the best defensive pairing in Bundesliga with the equally sized Naldo during his time at Werder Bremen. His partnership with Koscielny has been hailed as the best centre-back pairing in the Premier League.

Mertesacker is also known for his stamina and usually plays the entire 90 minutes of a match. He played the entire 90 minutes in all of Germany's seven games at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.[47]

Personal life[edit]

Mertesacker married German international handballer Ulrike Stange in June 2013[48] and they have a son Paul (born April 2011).[39][49]

In November 2006, Mertesacker created the "Per Mertesacker Foundation", initially to support the family of his former Hannover and Germany teammate Robert Enke, and is targeted at those suffering from depression. Since 2007 the foundation has organised yearly charity football matches which has featured Mertesacker's national and club teammates Philipp Lahm, Lukas Podolski and Tomáš Rosický as well as comedian Oliver Pocher, Fury in the Slaughterhouse member Rainer Schumann and German ice hockey legend Uwe Krupp. In November 2013, Mertesacker teamed up with German brand SpielRaum to sell T-Shirts, inspired by his own chant "Big F****** German", with some of the money raised going to his charity foundation.[50]

Career statistics[edit]

Club career statistics[edit]

As of 12 April 2014[51]
Club Season League Cup[a] League Cup[b] Europe Other[citation needed] Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Hannover 96 2003–04 Bundesliga 13 0 1 0 14 0
2004–05 31 2 4 1 35 3
2005–06 30 5 3 0 33 5
Totals 74 7 8 1 82 8
Werder Bremen 2006–07 Bundesliga 25 2 0 0 0[52][53] 0[52][53] 10 2 35 4
2007–08 32 1 3 0 1[54] 0[54] 9 0 45 1
2008–09 23 2 3 1 13 1 39 4
2009–10 33 5 5 0 10 0 1 1 49 6
2010–11 29 2 2 0 7 0 38 2
2011–12 4 0 0 0 4 0
Totals 146 12 13 1 1 0 49 3 1 1 210 17
Arsenal 2011–12 Premier League 21 0 1 0 0 0 5 0 27 0
2012–13 34 3 3 0 1 0 6 0 44 3
2013–14 30 2 5 1 1 0 10 0 46 3
Totals 85 5 9 1 2 0 21 0 117 6
Career total 305 24 30 3 3 0 70 3 1 1 409 31
  1. ^ Includes DFB-Pokal and FA Cup matches.
  2. ^ Includes DFB-Ligapokal and League Cup matches.

International goals[edit]

# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1. 15 June 2005 Commerzbank-Arena, Frankfurt, Germany  Australia 2–1 4–3 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup
2. 16 October 2012 Olympic Stadium, Berlin, Germany  Sweden 3–0 4–4 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier
3. 10 September 2013 Tórsvøllur, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands  Faroe Islands 1–0 3–0 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier
4. 19 November 2013 Wembley Stadium, London, England  England 1–0 1–0 Friendly



Werder Bremen




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  14. ^ "Das langersehnte Heimspiel" (in German). 15 November 2007. Retrieved 17 September 2010. 
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  27. ^ Ornstein, David (6 April 2013). "West Brom 1-2 Arsenal". BBC. BBC Sport. Retrieved 13 April 2013. 
  28. ^ Horlock, Alex (16 August 2013). "Mertesacker to pull on captain's armband for season opener against Aston Villa". Daily Mail. Mail Online. Retrieved 27 September 2013. 
  29. ^ Magowan, Alistair (22 September 2013). "Arsenal 3-1 Stoke City". BBC Sport. Retrieved 27 September 2013. 
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  34. ^ "Wigan 1-1 Arsenal". BBC. 12 April 2014. 
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External links[edit]