The Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker expects Sunday's game against Tottenham will be like no other derby he has played in before. Mertesacker has become a regular fixture at the heart of the Arsenal defence since his £10m move from Werder Bremen last month.
The towering centre-half had spent the previous five years at the German club, whose closest rivalry was with Hamburg – a club 60 miles away. Mertesacker reckons the rivalry between the two German sides is nowhere near as intense as that of Arsenal and Tottenham and is expecting a full-blooded encounter this weekend.
Mertesacker said: "This is my first special game for Arsenal. A lot of people have been telling me about it, how massive it is, and what a special experience it is and I am looking forward to it. It is an especially important game for Arsenal and for me. There is nothing similar to it in Germany. You cannot compare Bremen against Hamburg, they are not quite in the same city, so the London derby is bigger."
Mertesacker has received mixed reviews for his five appearances so far for Arsenal – the last of which was in Tuesday night's 2-1 Champions League group stage win over Olympiakos.
Injuries to other defenders have not helped the German, but he has revealed that former Arsenal players Jens Lehmann and Mikaël Silvestre have given him some advice about how to cope with the English game. "They told me the Premier League is more intense, quicker and very physical," said Mertesacker. "I have had to get used to it very quickly. Hopefully I will in the next few weeks,"
The 6ft 6in German, 27, revealed he would have moved to the Emirates Stadium last summer, had he got his way. "I only knew about Arsenal's interest three days before I moved," Mertesacker added. "Then Arsène Wenger called my agent and said that 'perhaps you can be my man' or something like that. I had to do what he wanted because, one year before, he asked for me and the manager of Werder Bremen didn't let me go and I wanted to."