Per Mertesacker has admitted Arsenal ‘do not deserve’ to be in the elite trio of clubs at the top of the Premier League, even though the Gunners have led the table for longer than any other side this season.
Arsenal’s push for another fourth-place finish looks set to give Arsene Wenger’s men some consolation for the collapse of their title challenge, which floundered with a series of heavy defeats against Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.
German defender Mertesacker has insisted Arsenal have to learn from their mistakes in recent months, as he accepted the displays against their title rivals were not good enough.
“Everyone dreamed about the title, but it takes more than staying on top until the winter period,” Mertesacker is quoted in the Daily Mirror.
“We could not afford [to lose] those big games against big teams, so we did not deserve to be in the first three. That is something we have to manage much better next year. The games were all similar, we got caught on the break and that is something we have to look at.
“The away games killed us. We have to learn how to play and how to defend in the first 20 minutes,” he added, reflecting on fixtures that saw Arsenal concede four goals in the opening 20 minutes of their 5-1 defeat against Liverpool at Anfield in February and three times in the opening 17 minutes of their 6-0 hammering against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last month.
Mertesacker believes the battling qualities Arsenal have shown since their 3-0 defeat at Everton earlier this month bode well for the future, with a run of victories all-but wrapping up a 17th consecutive season of Champions League football for the club.
“Everyone questioned our qualities but the way we have come back, especially from those away games, as a team makes us stronger for the future,” he added.