Per Mertesacker has praised Jack Wilshere for the way he’s tackled his transition from player to coach and says the former England international has brought “good energy” to the club.
Teammates for seven years at Arsenal, Wilshere was inspired to take his coaching badges in 2017 when the German was gearing up to become head of the club’s academy.
Despite parting ways for a few years, the pair remained close and when Wilshere was weighing up whether or not to continue his playing career, Mertesacker reached out with a chance to gain coaching experience with the club’s youngsters.
From there, things moved quickly. Wilshere hung up his boots last summer and was immediately installed as the head of the under-18s. While learning on the job hasn’t always been easy, the 31-year-old could end his first season in charge with a high-profile trophy if his young Gunners beat West Ham United in the final of the FA Youth Cup.
Ahead of tomorrow’s showpiece match at Emirates Stadium, Mertesacker lifted the lid on how Wilshere ended up back at Arsenal.
“During his interview, I was sitting there, Mikel was sitting there, Edu was sitting there. He needs to present to us all and that informs our next move. I was praying that Jack would turn up for the interview and be himself. That was a moment when the truth comes.
“It was brilliant to see him presenting himself, what he stands for, what he wants to be like, what coach he wants to be, how he wants to play. That needs to be somewhat aligned with what Mikel wants to see.
“I was just pretty impressed how Jack and Mehmet Ali [head coach of the under-21s] have presented themselves in front of senior people that could have said, ‘Not good enough, we want to have people from the outside coming in’. That could have easily happened.
“So I’m really pleased with his [Jack’s] first year. His ambition naturally is one day to go somewhere and coach a first team, but I’m not letting him at the moment. I think it’s important to be ambitious, but I think he respects the process so much more now.”
Arsenal haven’t won the FA Youth Cup since Wilshere himself was in Steve Bould’s lineup in 2008/09. The former England international has overseen a swashbuckling run to the final that underlines both the potential of the next generation of players and his own progress as a coach.
Mertesacker admits he wasn’t sure how Wilshere would cope, particularly with the unseen side of the role.
“Head coach is a big job,” noted the German. “It’s not just about working on the grass and being a role model and an inspiration. It’s about how you deal with staff, with all the emails, with how you delegate.
“He’s made a huge impact. Struggling, learning moments in his first year, was amazing. But to go on an FA Youth Cup run like he did, who could have done that? I think he has done amazing in his transition.
“We will have tough times together. But in terms of his first year in a head coaching position and the staff that have worked around him relentlessly for him and with him, I think he has created a good energy.”
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