Arsenal have confirmed that Jack Wilshere will lead Arsenal’s under-18s and Mehmet Ali will take over as head coach of the club’s under-21s.
The appointments come five weeks after Dan Micciche and Kevin Betsy, who previously held the roles, departed for a new challenge at Crawley Town.
Wilshere takes up the new position just days after ending of his playing career at the age of 30.
While the former England international has spent time coaching Arsenal’s youngsters in the last 12 months, the responsibility of overseeing the development of players on the cusp of going professional is a big one.
To be clear, despite a very close relationship with Mertesacker, who heads up the Academy, he’s been given the job on merit after impressing at the interview stage. He will be assisted by Adam Birchall, who previously worked with the club’s under-16s.
“It’s a huge honour to have this role,” Wilshere told Arsenal.com.
“It’s no secret that I love this club. I love what we stand for and a big part of my life was spent in this academy, some of the best days of my life. This is a big opportunity for me and I’m ready. I’m hungry and can’t wait to help these young players thrive and be the best they can be on and off the pitch.
“It’s a special feeling to be part of the Arsenal family. It never left me, and even though I moved on for a few years, my heart was always still at Arsenal. I can’t wait to get started and help these young players thrive with a great team around me.”
Ali joined Arsenal from Reading in January to assist Kevin Betsy and following a ‘positive six months’ inherits a role that recently belonged to the likes of Freddie Ljungberg and Steve Bould.
On accepting the position, he said: “It’s a great honour and privilege to be a part of this club and lead our Under-21s.
“I’ve already had six good months at the club, so I’ve got a sound understanding of the players. I’m now really excited and looking forward to continue working with the group and playing my part in developing strong young Gunners.”
Ali, who also assumes the role of Professional Development Phase lead, will be assisted by Max Porter who has been working with the under-18s.
Having had to fill two important roles in double-quick time, Mertesacker is optimistic about the new era.
“This is great news for everyone involved in our academy,” he said. “We have made a number of really positive changes in the last few weeks and I believe that we have the best possible people here to build on the progress that we’ve made in recent years.”
On a related note, Arsenal and Adidas will tomorrow launch a new six-part documentary about Hale End. You can watch the trailer below.