Mertesacker: Keep our chins up
Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has encouraged his team-mates to keep their level of intensity up and their spirits high in order to remain top of the Barclays Premier League.
The Gunners recorded a seventh clean sheet from 10 matches with a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on Sunday, with a second-half double from midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
However, Arsene Wenger's men have a tough schedule ahead of them which begins at Liverpool on Saturday before hosting Manchester United next Wednesday. They then go up against Brendan Rodgers' side for a second time at The Emirates in their FA Cup fifth-round tie.
"It is that part of the season when you might feel tired or exhausted, but we have to keep our chins up and now the really important games are coming," Mertesacker said.
"We have interesting games in the FA Cup, Champions League and Premier League.
"We have played well this season so far, and we have to keep that level [up]."
The German international believes his side can pull through these next challenging games despite the squad being fully stretched.
Arsenal are hopeful that Jack Wilshere will be available for the weekend to boost numbers in midfield. Mathieu Famini is serving a three-match ban, Aaron Ramsey remains sidelined with a thigh injury and deadline-day signing Kim Kallstrom is several weeks away from full fitness.
The Gunners have found defensive solidity in the partnership of Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny which has seen the number of first-team chances for captain Thomas Vermaelen limited as he recovers from a knee problem.
But Mertesacker is adamant that the Arsenal skipper remains a vital part of their defensive unit as he always gives them a boost in games.
"I think we have shown a lot of people who criticised us a lot over the last two-and-a-half years that we know each other much better now and that we complement each other well, so it looks like that's a good partnership [with Koscielny]," Mertesacker said.
"But I wouldn't say that's only us or the two of us. I think when I speak about our centre-backs I want to include Thomas Vermaelen because he's our captain and he's always vital for everyone.
"He's aware of situations, he gives us a boost, he came back from a heavy injury.
"The boss will rotate in the next couple of months and it's really important that we are all in good fitness and all in a good shape so we can continue our good form and good partnerships with the three of us."