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Arsenal captain Per Mertesacker has admitted his “body is finished” as he winds down the last year of his playing career. The former German international also revealed the anxiety he suffers from, choking violently before games, but he says it’s “worth it for all the memories”.

Mertesacker is in the last three months of his contract and will become Arsenal’s Head of Academy upon his retirement. The 33-year-old joined Arsenal from Werder Bremen in 2011 and has gone on to make 220 appearances in all competitions, winning three FA Cups and two Super Cups.

He’s struggled with injuries in recent years, however, making just one Premier League appearance last season and five this campaign. Mertesacker formed a solid partnership with Laurent Koscielny for a time but now he’s behind the likes of Rob Holding, Shkodran Mustafi, Koscielny, Calum Chambers and Nacho Monreal in the pecking order.

And despite being the captain and one of three leaders at Arsenal (Petr Cech, Koscielny), the German defender revealed how difficult he’s found the past 12 months. Being out injured and hardly playing can take its toll on a player mentally, but even stepping out on the pitch was a problem for Mertesacker in the past.

“Some days you realise that everything is a burden, both physically and mentally. In the moments before a game starts my stomach turns around as if I had to vomit. Then I have to choke so violently until my eyes tear,” he said to German magazine Der Spiegel, reports The S*n.

“Even if I had to vomit before every game and go to rehab 20 times, I would do it all over again. It was worth it for all of the memories. My body is finished.

“Everyone says I should enjoy the last year, to play as much as possible and take everything in, (but) I would rather sit on the bench or – even better – in the stands, and then, for the first time in my life, aged more than 30, I will feel free.”

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