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Everyone wrote me off - Critics inspired Mertesacker before Arsenal FA Cup triumph logo 28-05-2017

Per Mertesacker says his critics helped him to produce an impressive display which guided Arsenal to FA Cup glory against Chelsea as captain in his first start for over a year.

With Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Gabriel and Kieran Gibbs all unavailable in a defensive selection crisis, the former Germany international was named in the starting line-up by Arsene Wenger for the first time since April 2016.

Many observers wrote off Arsenal's chances before the game due to Mertesacker's impending involvement, but the 32-year-old used that negativity as motivation and went on to produce an assured display in his side's 2-1 victory.

He told reporters: "You can always say it was a first start of the season and first of being captain.

"But I went into the game saying to myself, 'There is nothing to expect, everyone has written me off already' and I went through my normal routine – 15 years and you never forget.

"You know what you have achieved and what you have been through. I trusted myself in a good way.

"I expect myself to perform at that level every single week. I don't know if I'm capable but I have done it for 15 years. The more people that write me off, the stronger I get. That's my feeling."

Mertesacker was quick to thank Wenger for the faith he had shown in selecting him as he described his emotions after a rollercoaster week.

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"Two weeks ago I was on holiday – I didn't expect to play," he said.

"Everyone trusted me and supported me throughout the season when I was not playing and the manager gave me the opportunity.

"Our team had three centre-backs out and he could have gone small but he went with the big fella and that is something I need to give him credit for because I haven't played a lot.

"I just trained, always with the same focus and mentality because in football things change quickly.

"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 was a very proud moment for myself and to lead the team out for the first time officially as captain is great.

"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. This is a very exceptional team."

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