Mertesacker: We need to spend

Defender Per Mertesacker has urged Arsene Wenger to spend in the transfer window so Arsenal can last the distance as the Barclays Premier League title race hots up heading into 2014.

The Gunners moved back to the top of the table as they came from behind to win 3-1 at West Ham, where midfielder Aaron Ramsey limped off with a thigh strain which will see the Wales international miss the remaining festive fixtures.

There is little respite for Arsene Wenger’s squad as they head to Newcastle tomorrow.

German international Mertesacker feels being able to call on the likes of compatriot Lukas Podolski — who scored in what was a first appearance since August — again can prove a big asset in the coming weeks, with England midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also closing in on first-team contention to boost Wenger’s options.

“We need the right additions. We said that a lot in the summer then Mesut Ozil came, but at this time, in a very special period that only happens in England, you need to get the right additions with players who come back from injury,” Mertesacker said.

“We lost Aaron Ramsey (against West Ham) so a good player is maybe out for two or three weeks, so we need the right additions now.

“We have a good squad and that is going to be vital in the next couple of weeks.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hopes Podolski’s return can prove a big asset.

“I try to get him slowly back to competitiveness and he has shown that he can have a huge impact because he can score and make you score goals, give assists,” he said.

Arsenal — who had not won for three Premier League matches to lose their five-point lead at the top of the Premier League — now travel to the north east for what is set to be another testing fixture of the hectic festive season.

“It has been a difficult period but mainly down to our schedule,” said Wenger. “I completely think our schedule has been absolutely horrendous.”

Arsenal will have midfielder Jack Wilshere back from a two-match suspension at St James’ Park, while centre-back Laurent Koscielny is hopeful of recovering from a gashed knee.

Captain Thomas Vermaelen has performed admirably alongside Mertesacker on his return to the team. The 28-year-old Belgium international, whose current deal runs out in June 2015, has been linked with a January move away from the Emirates Stadium to secure regular football in World Cup year. Vermaelen, though, maintains he is only focused on helping achieve Arsenal’s ambitions.

“I don’t like to talk about my situation. It doesn’t matter,” Vermaelen told Belgian TV station Sporting Telenet.

“I am a player of Arsenal and I will do everything for this club.”

Vermaelen will have to keep a close eye on Loic Remy tomorrow.

The 26-year-old French star ended his mini-drought on St Stephen’s Day, missing a penalty before claiming a double in the 5-1 demolition of nine-man Stoke to take his tally for the season to 10.

Remy said: “There’s a moment when doubts do start coming into your head, but I wasn’t too worried. I knew it (a goal) would come.

“I wasn’t sure when it would come back, but I knew it would come. I play in this team and I get fantastic service. People always give me great balls into the box, so I knew it would come straight back.”

“I got those two good goals and hopefully over the rest of the season, I will be able to get some more.”

The win was Newcastle’s seventh in nine attempts in the league and cemented their hold on sixth place on 33 points, their highest total from the first 18 games of the season since 2001-02, when they went on to finish fourth.

They now head into tomorrow’s home clash with leaders Arsenal, a game Remy, who grew up idolising compatriot Thierry Henry, is relishing.

He said: “It’s true he was one of my idols when I was growing up and it’s quite a special match for me, I have to admit. But you need to remember that every game is important for us, especially these massive games like on Sunday where you have got two really top teams going against each other.

“That’s where you see the best and the men sort themselves out from the boys, so it will be a good test for me.

“I know it will be a battle, but I think we can go out there and it would be a fantastic Christmas present for Newcastle fans.”


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