Arsenal’s regular players are natives of England, France, Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, Colombia, Chile, Wales, and Germany. The “G” in BFG stands for German. Last season, Arsenal had three regular team players that are natives of Germany: Lukas Podoloski (recently sold), Mesut Ozil, and Per Mertesacker.
Only one of them is our BFG. “B” stands for big. Diehard Arsenal fans knew immediately when they saw the title who this post was about. If you happen not to be so familiar, the three German Arsenal players appear below. See if you can guess which one is our BFG.
That’s right: Our BFG is Per Mertesacker. At 6′ 5″, he’s one big dude no matter where he comes from.
So BFG = Big _______ German.
I’ll let you work out what the “F” stands for. There will be no pictures to help you.
Mertesacker joined Arsenal in 2011 from Breman, a German club. He joined during a tough period. Arsenal sold Emmanual Eboue that summer. We lost our captain and creative midfielder Cesc Fabregas. He returned to his boyhood club, Barcelona, after an agonizing period of rumormongering and for a price probably unworthy of his skill. We also lost Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri to Manchester City. (Good riddance, we can say in retrospect, although their departures certainly left a gap.) And into the club, we got Carl Jenkinson, Gervinho, Park Chu-Young, Mikel Arteta, Andre Santos, and Mertesacker.
Of those, Arteta and Mertesacker immediately proved their worth, providing much needed stability and maturity, and both remain a critical part of the team. Except for Jenkinson, who may yet become a key contributor, the others are long gone.
That we needed a centerback that summer was clear. We had a good but frequently injured centerback in Thomas Vermaelen, and we’d had to play a young Johan Djourou at the position in an early-season 8-2 tonking by Manchester United, along with some other young players (including a teenaged Carl Jenkinson). It had been rumored that Arsenal were interested in Gary Cahill, an English player playing for Bolton Wanderers. Bolton had presumably established a market price of 12 million pounds for Cahill to which Arsenal supposedly made a bid of 8 million pounds for his services. Bolton manager Owen Coyle found it not even good enough to be considered “derisory.” Cahill ended up at Chelsea that year. Meanwhile, German club Breman accepted a 8 million pound bid for the sale of Mertesacker, then 27. Acquiring heavily-experienced German National team player Mertesacker at a similar price to the lesser experienced Cahill was a good piece of business for Arsenal. (It didn’t turn out badly for Cahill or Chelsea either, but that’s beside the point.)
At first, I was none too sure about Mertesacker. He seemed (and was/is) slow. He belabored passes, always safe. But over time it became clear that he had quickly become a stabilizing force, a leader, and a necessary cog in the wheel. His intelligence and positioning became hallmarks of his play. He formed such a tremendous partnership with Frenchman Laurent Koscielny that they became know as Mertecielny, the two-headed central defence.
He also became much beloved by the fans for his good natured, positive attitude.
His famous nickname was established no sooner than he entered the field of play the first game after his transfer. The fans began singing loudly “Big ______ German, We’ve got a big ________ German!” Mertesacker has admitted that at first he was taken aback.
‘I didn’t really know what they were singing at first, I was frightened at the start because of the F-word.
My first impression on that was not good. But I finally got it. A German journalist told me they quite like me. They have always tried to get on with me.’
He loves the name now, has even created a t-shirt fans can buy to support his charity, Per Mertesacker Stiftung, which supports socially disadvantaged children.
The video below offers an amusing and clean take on Mertesacker’s famous nickname, produced on Arsenal.com for Christmas.
Mertesacker retired from the German national team following its 2014 World Cup win, having competed more than 100 times for the team. This will allow him to focus exclusively on his club career with Arsenal and hopefully help keep him injury free. At 30, he still probably has at least a few more good years left in his BFG legs.