When Arsenal lost U21 coach Kevin Betsy to Crawley Town in the summer there was concern regarding whether the club would be able to find a sufficient replacement.
Academy manager Per Mertesacker elected for an internal appointment, with Mehmet Ali, who previously served as Betsy’s assistant, stepping up to take the main job.
Ali got off to a flying start with a 3-1 victory over Manchester United in the opening game and the U21s are still unbeaten across all competitions, nine games into the campaign.
Already this season Ali has had to cope with difficulties, such as having to be without main striker Khayon Edwards for several games due to injury.
However, Arsenal have still managed to produce some impressive displays and they have also done well in difficult circumstances, such as in today’s 1-1 draw against Wolves when they managed to get a point despite Henry Jeffcott being sent off in the first half.
Given that Arsenal are involved in several cup competitions, Ali has had the opportunity to give playing time to all of the members of his squad, and he has helped the likes of Charles Sagoe Jr to progress well.
The unbeaten run will surely come to an end at some point but most importantly, Ali has already made his mark on the U21s. The playing style is rather similar to that used by Mikel Arteta, with the full-backs spending a lot of time in central midfield.
Players such as Amario Cozier-Duberry, Catalin Cirjan and Matt Smith have already got on the bench for the first-team this season and it seems likely that there will be more to follow.