Per Mertesacker says he wants to ensure that youth players at Arsenal are given a realistic view of their chances of making it as a professional footballer, as the German begins his role as head of the academy.
Lots of youngsters make their way through the youth system, but only a tiny percentage ever make the grade with us or another professional outfit.
The BFG sees part of his new job as making sure the players know what it takes, and that hard work and dedication can go a long way even if they’re not necessarily the most skillful in the group.
In an interview with spox.com [German], Mertesacker outlined his philosophy, saying, “I was never talented and still I became a professional footballer. I want to bring in this perspective.
Football is developing in a direction where selection takes place very rigorously from a very young age and children are being described as ‘top talents’.
The wage structure at youth level reflects this trend. With this, you are sending signals to players that ‘you are going to make it! You will become a professional!”.
“Sometimes, parents of nine-year olds resign their jobs because they are speculating on a professional career of their son.
“In such a situation, all the alarm bells ought to be ringing. I want to build relationships to the players, their parents and the coaches and to instill a sense of realism.
“I am curious if I will achieve this. But there are many other questions that concern me too: Can I not only get the best out of myself, but also out of others? Can I use my ideas to further develop people?
“Can I be a role model and a leader for the entire academy?”
The former captain was also asked why he thought Arsenal had given the job to him over a more experienced option.
“Well, the club certainly reflected well enough before trusting a young guy like me to run an academy with 150 employees and 250 children.
“I am fully aware that it is a massive apparatus which comes with a lot of responsibilities.
“However, the club believes that I am an ambitious, down-to earth team player who can cope with this.”
It’s another big change, let’s hope he can carry out the job as well as he did throughout his playing career, with over 100 caps for Germany and becoming a big favourite in North London.
Thanks to Thomas Loser for the translation