Friday, 20 January 2017

Arsenal need 'leader' Per Mertesacker back to guide title hopes claims Granit Xhaka

Granit Xhaka believes Per Mertesacker remains Arsenal’s “leader” despite not having played for the club since April.

Manager Arsene Wenger confirmed yesterday that Mertesacker has agreed a new one-year deal with the Gunners after the club exercised an option to keep him, a move that was in some doubt given the severity of the 32-year-old’s knee injury.

Mertesacker is still a few weeks away from returning to action as he rebuilds his fitness but Xhaka was immediately struck by the centre-back’s influence at the club following his £34million summer switch from Borussia Monchengladbach.

“Unfortunately I have not had the chance to train with Per since I arrived here, actually,” he said.

“Straight away, I noticed his importance in the dressing room because he is a real leader here and hopefully he can get back healthy and we can have him for the second half of the season.” 

Mertesacker will be missing for Sunday’s visit of Burnley and almost certainly the entirety of a three-game period which Xhaka believes could define Arsenal’s Premier League season.

Watford visit Emirates Stadium the following Tuesday before a League hiatus for the FA Cup fourth round ends with a crucial trip to Chelsea.

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