Per Mertesacker insists he remains focused on the final year of his playing career despite the exciting prospect of taking over as head of Arsenal’s Academy in 12 months.
While the appointment of the club captain to one of the most important positions at London Colney came as a surprise, the retention of the World Cup winner’s experience has been warmly greeted by supporters who’ve often lamented the loss of retired stars to rival clubs.
The Gunners had been on the lookout for a new Academy manager since Andries Jonker left to takeover at Wolfsburg in February. Interim head, Luke Hobbs, will retain his position for the season ahead.
In a statement released on Instagram, Mertesacker explained why he’s looking forward to the next step in his career:
“Dear fans and friends, clear decisions were always very important to me. I felt like that after World Cup 2014 and I take such a decision now again. From autumn 2018 onwards I will be heading up the Arsenal Academy as the “Head of Academy”. Which means at the same time that the upcoming season will be my last one as a player.
“I am delighted about this future challenge and job at the club who means so much to me. Pattensen, Hannover, Bremen, Arsenal London – these places and clubs formed me and made me the player and person I am today. It is important to me to pass on these experiences and values to young players in the future.
“But for the next months my clear focus is to give everything as a player for the club. I am looking forward to the things lying ahead of us, short- mid- and longterm.”
Mertesacker will spend the upcoming pre-season challenging the likes of Calum Chambers, Rob Holding, Gabriel, Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny for a first team position. It’s not going to be easy getting game time.
Whatever he may say about staying focus on playing, there’s a fairly good chance he’ll be using his spare time to get to grips with the day-to-day running of the Academy.