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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 29, 2011

Mertesacker excited by derby date

Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker expects Sunday's game against Tottenham will be like no other derby he has played in before.

• Preview: Tottenham v Arsenal
• First XI: North London derbies
• Gallas set to miss Arsenal clash

Mertesacker has become a regular fixture at the heart of the Arsenal defence since completing his £10 million move from Werder Bremen last month. He spent the previous five years at the German club, whose closest rivalry was with Hamburg - a club 60 miles away.

Mertesacker is expecting a full-blooded encounter between the two bitter north London rivals at White Hart Lane 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 because 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 Wednesday's 2-1 Champions League group stage win over Olympiacos.

Injuries to other defenders have not helped the German, but he revealed last night former Arsenal players Jens Lehmann and Mikael Silvestre have given him some advice about how to cope with the challenges of the English game.

"I got some advice from Jens. He was my goalkeeper since the 2006 World Cup,'' Mertesacker said. "He gave me a lot of advice about the game in England. Living in London is very different to living in a little town in Germany. I got a lot of advice from Mikael Silvestre, who I played with last year.

"They told me the Premier League is more intense, quicker and very physical. 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 Emirates Stadium last summer, had he got his way.

"I only knew about Arsenal's interest three days before I moved,'' Mertesacker added. "Then Arsene 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. I had to do it very quickly but that was kind of my wish to go to the English league a couple of years ago.

"It is totally different here, especially in training. There are more passing sessions every day compared to other clubs. There are the little things - games every four days, the Champions League as well, which is a great challenge for me and the club, and a very young team with potential.

"We have good players who are not in the team and are on their way to fitness. When everybody gets fit we will have a great team. We want to go through the Champions League, we want to go up the Premier League. We have great targets to come.''

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