Per Mertesacker admits Arsenal were 'absolutely not ready' to fight during recent slump in form

The club captain implored his teammates to save face against Bayern Munich, who go into Tuesday's clash 5-1 ahead on aggregate

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Per Mertesacker has amazingly admitted that Arsenal’s players “were absolutely not ready for a fight” in what has been a “tense” past few weeks, and demanded the squad show “a different face” in the Champions League last-16 second leg against Bayern Munich on Tuesday.

Arsenal find themselves 5-1 down from the first leg, in what was the nadir of a dismal spell that saw Alexis Sanchez dropped for Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool after a bust-up, although Arsene Wenger denied this. 

Club captain Mertesacker, however, implored his players to show aggression to save face in the Bayern Munich tie - and maybe to start saving their season.

“I think we saw on a lot of occasions that we were absolutely not ready for a fight, and that’s what I want to see tomorrow: that we are up for a fight, to challenge something. We haven’t competed a lot, like in recent games, we need to turn that around. 

"That is really the focus, to come back to our strength and one thing about the Liverpool game is that there were 11 players on the pitch. We had a real chance to go for it, to push it and even without our best player on the pitch, to show that we are a real unit and we have to execute that. It’s not always the manager. It’s hard for him now to select, he does it with his best knowledge and we trust him.

“I think it’s up to us to show a different face tomorrow. That is really something we are going to demand because we literally blew it away in the second half there [at Allianz Arena] and being in that position. So it’s really down to us now to make the first step to make our fans proud of ourselves again. That is really something that we need the emphasis on.”

Asked about the spirit in the squad, Mertesacker admitted it hadn’t been at its best of late.

“It is a little bit tense but that is normal when you have a stretch like this. But the team is easier to change something and you can feel in every training session that we are eager to change something about the situation. For me that is most important and I need to make sure we train at a high level and are really focused on the next opponent because it will be tough one.

"But I am telling the players that we need to take the first step to get the fans on board again and to be successful again we need our fans to back us up. We have done something wrong in recent games, you always do something wrong, but this time in the last couple of games, even more so we need to analyse very well and the come back with a stronger performance, and learn from the mistakes that we have made recently. The spirit is a bit tense, as I said, but that is normal in these circumstances.

“I expect a lot from our players performance-wise, that is what we demand. We wanted to be in the Champions League, we are still in there so let’s go for it. We played hard last season to get there and now this is our chance to get everyone back. Our fans, to get involved again, to make the season a successful one. But it is down to focusing on the next opposition.”