Arsenal v Burnley: Suspended Mertesacker hails Gunners´ spirit
Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker feels the team spirit at the club has never been higher as the holders prepare to host Burnley in the FA Cup on Saturday.
The fourth-round tie will see Arsene Wenger’s men continue their bid to win the tournament for a third consecutive year, but comes after a three-game winless run.
Arsenal drew against Liverpool and Stoke City in the Premier League before suffering a home defeat to rivals Chelsea last Sunday in a match that saw Mertesacker sent off in the first half, meaning he is unable to face Burnley due to suspension.
But the former Germany international, 31, insists morale is as strong as ever with the team still in the running to win three competitions, and praised their ability to cope when they have had key absences throughout the campaign.
“We have kept the same squad and obviously made some great additions over the past two years,” he said to the club’s official website.
“In general, the team spirit has grown a lot. We are competing at the top and that is something that was not always the case when I joined.
“The team is much stronger and mentally stronger as well. There are a few steps to go, the season is always long and to get consistency is never easy.
“There are challenges ahead of us but they make us even stronger and I must say that the team spirit in the squad is huge at the minute.
“In general we have a good balance in the team and a good squad. We have still got players coming back from injury but we have never complained about it, that is the main reason for our success.
“Players have stepped up, brought their energy and we have got the results as well. We won’t look back on players being injured as a negative because other players have stepped up, especially this season.”
Other than Mertesacker, Arsenal are only without longer-term absentees Santi Cazorla (knee) and Jack Wilshere (calf).
Burnley will arrive at the Emirates Stadium full of confidence after a 4-1 win over promotion rivals Derby County that moved them up to third in the Championship on Monday.
Sean Dyche’s men are unbeaten in six matches and striker Sam Vokes thinks a major upset is possible.
He said: “That [picking up a result] is what we will be going down there to do. We are full of confidence from the last result so we will look to go down there and do the same.
“It is obviously a place we have been last year [when Burnley were in the Premier League] but it is a fantastic place to play football and I think the lads are looking forward to it.”