It is a time of considerable change for the Arsenal first-team and the same can certainly be said of the club’s academy setup.
Per Mertesacker is preparing for his first campaign as academy manager and there have also been a host of alterations behind the scenes, with further changes to follow.
When Arsenal announced last year that Mertesacker would be overseeing the academy it was an intriguing appointment but you could have been forgiven for being a little sceptical at how he would fare in such an important position given his relative lack of experience.
It is clear to see why Arsenal chose Mertesacker for the job – he is somebody that, having been at the club for a long time, is hugely familiar with the way that it operates, while he is known for his professional approach and has often been cited as a welcoming figure by young players who were promoted to the senior squad.
Despite all of that, however, there remained an element of concern regarding how Mertesacker would step up.
Now, though, the situation seems rather clearer, with the club having moved to bring in some experienced individuals who will help Mertesacker with the sizeable task that he faces.
Marcel Lucassen, who possesses plenty of experience from working with the German FA, has been named as director of football development, while Lee Herron will be the director of football operations.
While it isn’t exactly clear how the new structure will work, it is apparent that Mertesacker won’t be on his own and will be given plenty of guidance along the way.
Ultimately, though, it is Mertesacker who will have a significant say on many important matters. He helped the club to decide to appoint Freddie Ljungberg as U23 coach, and the Swede will replace Steve Gatting, who, along with his assistant Carl Laraman, was suspended following claims of bullying.
There has been another appointment, with Chris Terpuco joining from Newcastle to help coach Arsenal’s young goalkeepers.
U18s coach Kwame Ampadu remains in charge, but it wouldn’t be surprising if there were to be further changes at various age groups before the new campaign gets underway.
It is an exciting time for the academy and there are some very impressive schoolboys who are nearing the end of their time at Hale End, with their step up to London Colney over the next couple of years set to be overseen by Mertesacker.
Following on from the U23’s Premier League 2 title success, it is hoped that the next crop of academy players can also go on to make an impact at academy level before some of them hopefully go on to make the breakthrough into the first-team.
There is much work for Mertesacker to do, but as he starts his new journey it is reassuring to know that he won’t be alone.