Mertesacker backs Arsenal to manage Wembley pressure

The Gunners scrapped through on penalties against Wigan before mounting a two-goal comeback over Hull to win the FA Cup last season, and the defender feels lessons were learned

Per Mertesacker is hoping for a less stressful trip to Wembley on Saturday in comparison to some of Arsenal’s recent visits.

The Gunners ended their their trophy drought in the FA Cup last season, winning thrilling contests over Wigan and Hull City to end a barren nine-year period.

Mertesacker netted an equaliser in the semi-final win over the Latics as Arsenal sneaked through on penalties before the team came from two goals down to beat Hull 3-2 after extra time in the final.

“It’s good to have a run,” Mertesacker told reporters. “We had some setbacks at the start of January and February, but after that we managed our situation well by just winning and focusing on ourselves.

“Not worrying about who was ahead of us, or if we were going to be a [Premier League] title contender, we just wanted to be consistent. But, Saturday against Reading is another competition.

“We are at a good level of confidence, but there will be pressure situations for us because we are super favourites, and can we handle that during the game?

“We suffered a bit last season on that occasion with that pressure, but it was a great experience, and hopefully we can manage that much better this time.

“Last season we created a lot of chances, but it looked like we couldn’t score … so let’s focus on that game and not think too much about the Premier League.”

Arsenal went some way to settling their Wembley nerves with a 3-0 Community Shield victory over Manchester City in August.

But their presence in the traditional season-opener would never have happened without Mertesacker’s header to send their semi-final with Wigan to extra time.

“Yes, obviously it was a tough one against a Championship side, so you can compare it a little bit, but obviously it’s going to be difficult,” said Mertesacker, comparing their semi-finals.

“It’s a great warning from last season, that we went to penalties and had a great stopper in Lukasz Fabianski who saved two, so it’s a good warning to all of us.

“You need to be focused 100 per cent. I think Reading and Wigan are quite similar, so it’s going to be a tough one for us.”

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