Mertesacker loving his role as Academy manager

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Just over two years since he took over as the head of Arsenal’s Academy, Per Mertesacker has labelled the decision to go for the job as the “best decision” he ever made.

Given Andries Jonker and Liam Brady, his predecessors in the role, had considerable coaching experience when they were handed the reins, eyebrows were raised when the Gunners made the decision to offer the German the position while he was still playing for the club.

It turns out the club’s decision to act bold was, in part, driven by a desire to learn from previous mistakes. Having failed to retain the services of Mikel Arteta, who took up a coaching role at Manchester City when he retired, Arsene Wenger and Ivan Gazidis felt they couldn’t risk adding Mertesacker to the brain drain.

Speaking to Arsenal’s ‘In Lockdown’ podcast, the German took up the story: “I always gave the indication that I would be very happy [to stay]. As a family, we are settled and it’s the club I love so I would love to make a contribution.

“I think what made them want to keep me was Mikel Arteta. I think it was the year before that he went to Man City, they were desperate to keep him but they approached him a little bit too late. I think in their minds they thought, ‘We want to keep Per as part of the club.’

“Then two weeks later they came up with the idea of making me the academy manager and it just took me one conversation with my wife to determine that that’s what I wanted to do.”

Given the myriad changes that have taken place around him in the last two years, a short stint as the first team’s assistant coach and the ongoing challenge of Covid-19, it’s fair to say the role has been a baptism of fire for Mertesacker.

Despite the roller coaster ride, he and his new-look team have overseen a host of changes at the Academy from talent identification and player development to pushing the club to offer an increasingly holistic education alongside football.

Reflecting on how things have gone, he added: “Did I know everything about the role? Did I know everything to expect? Absolutely not. I have to admit it. I thought this is a great club with great people who have been magnificent in nurturing young talent into the first team, so I expected that I would have colleagues in the academy that would be fantastic to me and would welcome me.

“I expected good people to work with. Two years into the role now, did I expect what I was going into? Absolutely not. Am I glad to have made the decision to stay with the club? Absolutely yes. Do I like my job? Do I like to be part of the Arsenal Academy and lead it? Best decision ever!”

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LadyGooner

Good to know. It’ll be interesting to see where he takes it. Always love hearing Per talk about the physiological side of football, that alone makes him very suited fro a role with youngsters

Artetas Assistant

Lady Amy Lawrence ??🤨 🤔🤔🧐🧐

Hi-Jay

Sorry.. but did you mean psychological?

The physiological side would be what we read about in the team news.

Alex

He also talks about Özil’s situation: always in a good mood, training hard, still loving playing football, not out for football reasons…

gus

exactly what wev bn saying all along, lets c the ozil haters slag off one of their own boys(ie per),

our once esteemed club is now a joke

DPK

Like I said to Alex, where is the quote from BFG that backs up his comment ?

DPK

You’re trying to make it sound a lot more sinister on the club’s behalf. The below is the quite I found, is there another one that backs up your comment?

‘A lot has changed away from the field.

“He got married, has a family. Perhaps the focus has changed. Nevertheless, he is still happy and happy to play football.”

Snagger

A man to look up to. Not that most of us have much choice.

Biggles

Ho, ho, ho (or high, high, high?)

OdalGooner

Hoch, Hoch, Hoch?

Twatsloch

Sehr hoch!

Biggles

Hande hoch, hoch, hoch.

Perry Crows

Heil, heil, heil!

OsloGooner

I have a feeling he’s going to be our academy-manager for a long time. Per always showed great spirit on the field, and hopefully our young guns can learn from him. The love he shows for Arsenal, every time he speaks..

I hope every young player, coming trough at the club knows how important it is to represent The Arsenal and that they can become a legend at the club.

Xanat

Sometimes I think that that 2-8 red devils spanking was at the perfect timing – after that we pursued for both Arteta and Per – what a long-term signings they’re both were!

Biggles

True, but I’d have preferred for Arsenal not to have been totally humiliated (and not the only one under Wenger in his latter days). However, if something positive has come out of it now, then it’s a tick in the other column.

Heavenly Chapecoense

As players, Arteta and Per would make you middle table but in these roles they’re great.
One of Wenger’s weaknesses is that he was uncomfortable giving roles to the big names that would attract media attention ( Henry, Bergkamp, Wright, Sol). Adams was too negative to be around the club.

Don Cazorleone

I still shudder anytime I see a thumbs up/down ratio of 8:2

potatogooner

Arteta and Per have been good but lets not overstate it. A really good signing would have been someone who led us to a title by now.

Biggles

I think we needed (and still need) more than one signing to get us a title – and that’s been true for quite a time now. I’m a tad suspicious of the “all we need is “x” argument – as if, in a single bound (or player) we can “get there”. I don’t see Partey as the final missing piece of our particular jigsaw, although he’ll certainly be a positive addition. Judging everything so far, we’ve a good choice as manager and also someone who looks to be making a pretty good job with the youngsters. If we’ve got that… Read more »

Matthinc

Lolz

backsakacrack

I can’t be the only one who thought the headline said leaving..!

Daveo

Maybe Özil could be his assistant going forward? He should really do something for his coin after being left off Europa and EPL squads.

A Voice in the Noise

Oh goodie, I was hoping we’d be able to discuss Mesut Özil in an article about our academy manager’s love of his new role in the club.

Tapps

I want Ozil the longest possible distance from our young academy prospects. I can’t think of worse role model on earth (maybe Fred West).

Daveo

‘Twas in jest

Matthinc

Say what you will about Ozil, but even I still see some daylight between him and Fred West. Unless there’s something you know?

A P

What? Honouring his contract?

chepetin

Found a website that shows the furthest away point on Earth from any location and it looks like for London Colney it’s a place called Waitangi, Chatham Islands. So maybe he can be seconded there.

BillyKrystal

“You see young man, the key is to get as big a contract as possible so you can stop putting any effort into your job”

GUN

Ozil was one of the best players under Mikel Arteta prior to lockdown. Yes, he has problems with the board but please don’t feed the English newspapers’ myth about Ozil being lazy into your head. I recommend watching Ozil in the matches under Arteta before lockdown.

Biggles

Nein, nein, nein.

Name*

One of the things he once spoke about in a previous interview was about the prospects of budding footballers away from the pitch. What if not football? Given the number of academy prospects anywhere who never make it, that is the most important thing. That playing football professionally is a job – probably a horrifyingly well-paid one, but a job all the same – is something he might be looking into for all the young ones. Perhaps not immediately, but it may yet happen that we will have lesser and lesser “Deench/Dench” and Bendtners (not entirely our academy, but we… Read more »

Teryima Adi

We love all that you do, BFG.
Blessings

arsehead

BFG love!

Ozenal

Best signing in the final Wenger years. And you know it was Arsene decision. Not bound by transfer policy and board room penny pinching

Tom

For all the german gooners:
A shame we let Sven Mislintat go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqdI_N1l1Xk