World Cup-winning central defender Per Mertesacker says he is fit to make his first start in more than a year when Arsenal take on Chelsea in the FA Cup final on Saturday.
The 32-year-old German, who retired from international football a month after winning the 2014 World Cup, will arrive at Wembley with just 37 minutes of action under his belt this season following knee surgery last summer.
But with first-choice centre-backs Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel unavailable and Shkodran Mustafi a doubt, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger may have no choice but to see if Mertesacker can not only cope with Chelsea striker Diego Costa but also last the entire game.
Koscielny is banned, Gabriel out for around two months with a knee injury and Mustafi a concern because of the after-effects of concussion, in a game that could decide Wenger’s future at the club.
“I haven’t played this year but I have been used to doing this for 15 years so I expect myself to be absolutely ready no matter what comes,” the Arsenal captain Mertesacker told a press conference on Wednesday.
“No matter what I am facing on Saturday I am going to go for it. I owe this to this team and this club.
“I want to make sure I am 100 percent ready and my mindset is to be ready for 120 minutes plus penalties.”
Mertesacker last started on April 30 last year, when he was substituted early in the second half of a 1-0 victory at home to Norwich City.
On Sunday he was thrown into action for the first time this season when Koscielny was sent off and Gabriel injured in the 3-1 win over Everton at the Emirates Stadium.
“It was completely unexpected, I made the squad because of two injuries and I came on due to one red card and another injury, but you need to be ready at any time and it was good to get a run-out,” said Mertesacker.
“I’m very grateful that I got the opportunity. I was out for half a year and it was difficult at times, I tried to support the team as much as I could.
“We went through difficult periods but now everyone is eager to play this last game and give everything for this club.”