Mertesacker and Hobbs on academy appointments

Per Mertesacker believes that the club’s succession planning helped massively after finalising the appointments of Mehmet Ali and Jack Wilshere as Head Coaches of the under-21s and under-18s respectively.

Our Academy Manager, alongside Head of Academy Coaching Luke Hobbs, has had a busy summer following the departures of Dan Micciche and Kevin Betsy, but felt that the best candidates to replace the duo came internally having previously spied Ali’s and Wilshere’s potential to step up.

“We had some form of succession planning going on once we appointed Mehmet in January,” Mertesacker said. “Jack doing something with the academy really helped this process as well. These are club appointments, so from the technical side, Edu, Mikel, everyone needed to be on board.

“We run a process where [the candidates] need to come in and present their ideas and how they will be aligned to the values that we stand for as a football club, and the playing style of the first-team. That took a bit of time, but now everyone has that clarity on who is leading the teams going forward.”

Mehmet Ali at London Colney

Ali only arrived at the club from Reading in January as Betsy’s assistant, but Hobbs feels that his significant experience coupled with how quickly he settled into life at London Colney made him a perfect fit for his new role.

“Mehmet is a coach that we’ve tracked for a long time,” Hobbs said. “He’s worked in Category One academy football for many years and he’s been a PDP 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 informed us that they were leaving, myself and Per had every confidence that Mehmet was able to step in.”

Wilshere’s appointment led to his decision to end his playing career last week, after dipping his toe in the coaching waters with the academy last season. Having been impressed during that time, Mertesacker feels that it is the right move at the right time for a man who has lived the same dream that all his new academy players hope to emulate.

“We are super excited about Jack,” Mertesacker added. “He has seen the journey of an academy player from a very early age. Seeing him coach on a daily basis with us in the academy gave us a lot of confidence. 

“He has shown real consistency in his behaviours, training in the morning with the first-team, probably being knackered, and then being able to assist the under-17s and lead a few coaching sessions in the evening. 

wilshere and ali

“I knew him from being teammates, however, when you make the transition into coaching it’s a different world and he has done so well with us, so we were really at the stage where we tried to convince him that this is the right step for him. To have a role model of the academy and the pathway with us is something we couldn’t turn down.”

“When you’re the under-18 Head Coach, you have to have some kind of understanding of what it takes to go from Hale End to Colney,” Hobbs added. “Jack knows that, and has done everything that all of the academy players would want to do. He’s been the captain of Arsenal’s first-team, he’s won the FA Cup, and he’s worked with Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker as a player. 

“I think the other thing that’s important to know is Jack is a UEFA A qualified coach, and the feedback that I’ve had from people in the FA and the PFA when he was on his course was how dedicated he was to coaching. Even when he was out in Denmark playing he was always on task, contacting individuals to try and ensure he could get the best qualification and learn as much as possible.”

To hear much more from Mertesacker and Hobbs, including their hopes for the season ahead and their happiness at seeing academy players progress to the first-team, press play on the video above.

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