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Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker sets new year fitness target

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Arsenal captain Per Mertesacker says he's hopeful of returning from a knee operation in the new year. He also insists Alexis Sanchez should not be overused

Per Mertesacker has made a return to full fitness his New Year's resolution at Arsenal.

The German centre-back is currently rehabilitating after undergoing knee surgery following an injury in Arsenal's pre-season friendly against Lens in July.

The problem has wiped out his entire season so far, with Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi making the heart of defence their own for the title-challenging Gunners.

Mertesacker has resumed light training and has his sights set on a January return to action.

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"I'm able to run now, painless, and it's what it's all about," he said. "When you are able to run again after such a long time it makes you feel happy.

"I'm hopeful that I can join the team properly and be available to the team next year. That's my resolution. I want to be back on the pitch and with the ball."

In Mertesacker's absence, Arsenal are second in the Premier League and striker Alexis Sanchez has hit a superb run of form, scoring 13 goals in 19 games in all competitions this season.

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<<enter caption here>> at London Colney on December 5, 2016 in St Albans, England.
Image: Per Mertesacker is running again after knee surgery in the summer

The Chile international hit a hat-trick in Saturday's 5-1 win at West Ham and while Mertesacker believes Sanchez is in good hands with the club's medical team, he has urged a cautious approach.

"He does whatever he wants to do in training and he's pretty much unpredictable," he said. "At times I think we need to be cautious with him.

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"He had an injury at around this time last year but the team we have here are doing a good job of making sure he is ready and fit to play."

Per Mertesacker was speaking at an event organised by the Arsenal Foundation to celebrate international day for people with disability.

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