Mertesacker: Critics just make me stronger

Arsenal captain Per Mertesacker made a statement to his critics after defying expectations to lead the club to a record 13th FA Cup title on Saturday.

The 32-year-old centre-back had missed virtually the entire season with a knee injury, making his long awaited comeback as a second-half substitute against Everton on the final day.

Mertesacker then found himself in the starting line-up for the first time the following weekend as the Gunners denied Chelsea the double with a 2-1 win in the FA Cup final at Wembley.

Many expected the Germany international to be off the pace against Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and the like, but he hardly put a foot wrong after featuring in a back-three for the first time in his career.

Mertesacker said the criticism only succeeded in making him stronger following a frustrating lengthy spell on the sidelines.

"I expect myself to perform at that level every single week," the World Cup winner declared after the match.

"I don't know if I'm capable but I've done it for 15 years. The more people that write me off, the stronger I get. That's my feeling.

"I think we have shown great support in him (Wenger) as well and for his trust in us. We have shown with that performance, it's a statement."

He added: "I'm just blessed for this opportunity. For the trust from my team-mates and my manager because being sidelined for such a long time, I suffered a lot this season because you want to contribute on the pitch.

"To be able to do that today was a very proud moment for myself and to lead the team out for the first time officially as captain is a great moment for myself.

"At the end of the day everyone trusted me and supported me throughout the season and the manager gave me the opportunity."

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