For the fourth time in four years, Per Mertesacker and Luke Hobbs have overseen a coaching change at the highest level of Arsenal’s Academy.
After Steve Gatting, Freddie Ljungberg, Steve Bould and Kevin Betsy, the new man leading Arsenal’s under-21s (previously the under-23s) is Mehmet Ali.
Ali joined the Gunners from Reading in January and has earned a quick-fire promotion after an impressive six months working as Betsy’s assistant.
In an interview with Arsenal.com, Hobbs, who is Head of Academy Coaching, explained why he’s the right man for the job:
“Mehmet is a coach that we’ve tracked for a long time. He’s worked in Category One academy football for many years and he’s been a PDP [Professional Development Phase] under-23 head coach, so when we appointed him as Kevin’s assistant, we knew we were appointing somebody that had lots of academy experience.
“We knew we were appointing a really good person and a really good coach and over the last six months, his connection with the staff at Colney, his relationship with the players and his attention to detail on the grass has been second to none.
“So when Kevin and Dan [Micciche] informed us that they were leaving [for Crawley Town], myself and Per had every confidence that Mehmet was able to step in.”
After another summer of disruption at London Colney, the sense of continuity that Ali provides is something he believes will stand him in good stead.
He told Arsenal.com: “I’ve been fortunate enough to be at the club for six months already, so I’ve got a good understanding of the players and it definitely helps a smoother transition to the position that I’m in now.”
He’s also relishing the prospect of working closely with manager Mikel Arteta and ensuring the next generation is educated to the Spaniard’s exacting standards.
“Mikel has a huge influence on the academy, he has a huge interest in the academy as well as all of his coaching staff,” he said.
“I talk with them regularly about the players, about the under-21 players and I’ve been very fortunate enough to be in a position where they’re supporting me in terms of what they’re looking for, which I think is key.
“It’s really important to know what Mikel is actually looking for, to then give that information to the players to make sure that they’re showing that when they do get the opportunity to go up with the first-team.”