Thursday, August 18, 2022

Six tasks facing Per Mertesacker as Arsenal academy manager

It was announced today that Per Mertesacker will become Arsenal’s new academy manager, succeeding Andries Jonker, when he retires from playing in 2018.

The appointment of Mertesacker is certainly an intriguing move and it is clear that there will be much work for the German to attend to, both in the short-term and the long-term, once he takes charge of the youth set-up.

Here’s a look at some of the objectives facing Mertesacker.

  1. Improve Arsenal’s defence at youth level

Arsenal’s defending at youth level in recent years has left a lot to be desired, with players frequently being caught out of position and making avoidable mistakes.

The club have struggled to produce top quality young centre-backs, with individuals often having to be drafted in from elsewhere simply to make up the numbers in the U18 and U23 squads.

As a defender himself, Mertesacker could be the man to address this issue and some individual coaching sessions with Arsenal’s young defenders may well be beneficial.

2. Help Arsenal’s academy to win trophies again

The main aim of an academy is, undoubtedly, to produce players for the first-team, with results at youth level not as important in comparison.

However, Arsenal have gone seven years without winning an official trophy at youth level and regular success would certainly help to establish a winning mentality amongst the academy players.

3. Set the right plan for Reiss Nelson’s development

Reiss Nelson is Arsenal’s standout youth player, with the 17-year-old, who is capable of playing as an attacking midfielder or out wide, having already been told by Arsene Wenger that he will receive first-team game time this season.

A skillful player, Nelson has a vast amount of potential but it is vitally important that his development is planned correctly, including when he is formally integrated into the first-team squad, whether he is sent out on loan and ensuring that the hype that surrounds him (and will inevitably build) doesn’t have an adverse effect on his progression.

4. Ensure that youngsters aren’t marginalised

All too often in recent years there have been youth players at Arsenal who are clearly surplus to requirements yet, as they are still under contract, are unable to move elsewhere.

Mertesacker must ensure that Arsenal are more thoughtful when giving out contracts to youngsters and create an environment where each player in the academy is worthy of his place.

5. Make Arsenal a place where young players want to stay and develop

While Wenger is renowned for giving young players opportunities, the process has slowed a little in recent years, with not quite so many prospects getting a look in.

There are a growing number of prospects who have decided to leave Arsenal in search of getting more first-team chances elsewhere, with Chris Willock the most recent example, and youngsters at the club must be shown that there is a pathway through to the first-team if they are able to demonstrate that they are worthy of promotion.

6. Appoint a new U23 coach

Steve Gatting has been at Arsenal as a coach for a decade but his limitations in helping to get the best of youngsters have been laid bare in recent seasons following his progression to become the club’s U23 manager, whilst his tactical decisions are often questionable.

Appointing a new U23 coach may not be entirely Mertesacker’s decision but the 32-year-old could suggest that reinforcements are needed in the coaching department; something that would certainly benefit the club in the long term.

Jeorge Bird is the author of, follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird

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Per previously:

Per’s persona permanently persuading Arsenal personnel to perimeter perceptions of peril, perversity and perplexity with periods of perfectly perky, perspiring and persistent performances.


Ah, a pervert.




Love the BFG. Arsenal through and through. Dedicated, intelligent respected by everyone.
Great decision to bring him onboard long term. And yes he has a lot of work to do to build a winning team from the youth upwards.


Re point 5: it’s not as if we’ve been losing players from the youth setup who go on to shake up the world. A bit of circumspection here wouldn’t go amiss. And Willock has left Arsenals B team to play for Benficas B team. Unless of course there is someone else behind it a la Gnabry. In which case it is a back stage issue rather than a front of house one.


Gnabry and Willock might be outliers but I think the club would love to have both of them. Especially considering that outside of Iwobi and Bellerin, it has been about 5 years at least since we promoted a top graduate of the academy (Wilshere, Gibbs and Coquelin.) Need to have a player being promoted at least every other year, IMO.


I don’t think they’re particularly missed actually. Gnabry had an arse so large it had its own gravitational field and more often than not flattered to deceive. Personally I was never overly impressed with Willock when I saw him play in the flesh.


I feel the same about Willock, I think Maitland-Niles has greater potential


I can’t think of anyone better suited to the role. The BFG is pure class, and I’m sure he’ll do wonders for the academy.


Weren’t we trying to sign the head of the La Masia? That guy to me is far more qualified to head our academy than Mert. Think a lot of people are in denial that our academy has been in shambles in recent years, lagging behind our rivals (just look at how the England U19 which beat the Germany U19 4-1 was full of Chelsea players) and we need someone to revamp the academy, rather than someone to use it as a stepping sstone to his coaching career.


Points 1 and 2 are meaningless. And which of our best talents recently, aside from Willock, has left? Top academies the world over lose their best players to other clubs (are we going to forget that we’ve raided Barca aplenty) You make it seem like its a dire problem. Overall this just seems like a piece that was written just for the sake of it without really much to say.


Also Bellerin and Iwobi have broken into the first team after tutelage at the u23s with Gatting; thats two players in three years which, in the climate of the EPL where its extremely difficult for young players to break through especially at a top club, is impressive. So again, I dont really see what point youre making about his tactical decisions if he’s able to successfully guide players to the first team.

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You’re welcome to disagree with the man without rubbishing his work. I personally agree with him on all five points. In addition to the few notable youngsters that have left, we’ve had a lot of Unfulfilled potential. I keep remembering that generation of Jay Emmanuel Thomas (yes even attitude can be managed) which despite the obvious and abundant talent amounted to nothing


Interesting take, and I agree re winning trophies. Never to early to get that habit! Also a fair point that perhaps fewer youngsters should get contracts, but on the other hand, players develop at different rates and it’s really hard to rule them out at 16-18. But I wouldn’t be so concerned about point 5 – it SHOULD be hard to get into the first team – one or two every other year would be doing well. And I believe Chris Willock was offered a contract and first team game time, wasn’t he? But you would know more about that… Read more »

No way

i wonder how much Willocks decision to leave was affected by Alex iwobi. Iwobi is a year older and already established in the first team squad in the same position. If anyone was blocking willocks path it was another of our young players. Neither look ready to be first choice yet so there is only really room for one of them. This is not in any way a criticism of iwobi.


Are the invincibles too out of touch with the modern game and methods to become coaches at arsenal now?


I think some of them prefer being pundits. The rest of the time, they can play golf or whatever.


Interesting appointment. Considering the experience Jonker brought to the set up. I wonder what ideas Mert brought to the table that got him the job above anybody else and how closely he works with youngsters in the current set up.

That said it’s great to see him stay on. He is a true Gooner and we’re lucky to have him.



Can we get Pires involved too?


Given that hell not take up the position for another year I feel this article is jumping the gun slightly…

Miguel sanchez

He also needs to grab Gervinho for the vaguely creepy camping trip

Windell Wignal

Sadly its not only Arsenal but majority of the big clubs in England have gone away from their academies because of new found wealth in the huge TV money. It is important that these clubs strike the right balance between home grown players and big transfers. The big clubs have lost their identities. Players coming through the academies are more likely to stay and be loyal and become leaders. Personally I feel that the club captain should be a player that came through the ranks but it is becoming less likely to have a Adam’s or Terry or Gerrard being… Read more »

No way

I disagree. Firstly the big clubs are spending ever more on their academies. for example we have regularly improved our youth facilities at hale end and London Conley, city and Chelsea have spent vast amounts on theirs, Spurs recently built a whole new youth facility. It’s just that with the clubs being richer than ever before it’s harder than ever to get a chance, however almost all the top clubs have younger players in the first team rotation. I also don’t necessarily agree that players have a better connection if they came through the youth system. Look at for example… Read more »

Andy Mack

The biggest issue any academy manager for a top team has, is getting his talented kids some senior game-time. It’s a major step up that many can’t make (or do but far too late) but is necessity, so the only option for regular game time is by sending them out on loan to teams that can take the risk on playing talented youth in professional games. The PL has at least 15 consistently very competitive teams and the other 5 can be very competitive but inconsistently so. No other league in Europe has this level of consistent competition, so they… Read more »

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