In July, it was announced that Per Mertesacker would take over Arsenal’s academy once his playing contract with the club ran out in June 2018.
Since the news emerged, the centre-back has given us a sneak-peak of how he wants to lead the young Gunners and revealed a deep, caring philosophy that I’m not sure many fans realised he had.
No one saw the appointment coming but after hearing what he has to say and how he wants to make a difference, many strongly believe that the BFG could go on to be a great manager one day.
The German knows a thing or two about success. He’s not just Arsenal captain now, he’s also won the World Cup with his country in 2014, as well as the FA Cup three times in north London.
However, it doesn’t seem that he believes success comes from pure luck or miraculous – it’s hard work.
The 33-year-old strongly believes that it doesn’t matter how talented you are as a footballer, if you don’t work hard, you’re wasting it. Similarly, he reckons that hard work is the most useful tool an athlete can have and, in his words, “Talent is what you make of it.”
It’s a clever ethos to live by because it means that young players, who the defender will be helping develop, no longer have to worry that they’re not being touted as the next Cristiano Ronaldo. They will apply themselves, push, grow and continue to learn because they believe they can get there one day.
And, even if they don’t, they’ll have learned numerous lessons about discipline, nutrition, fitness and teamwork to carry with them for the rest of their life.
Next: The type of players Mertesacker wants to develop
1Wanted: Hard workers
What’s more, Per’s sending the message that he wants a hard-working player who perhaps only has a smidgen of talent compared to an immensely gifted person who doesn’t put in any effort in training sessions or for the rest of the team.
It’s a fantastic attitude for a young player to have and as a man who deeply loves Arsenal and supported them as a boy, Per obviously wants everyone to be giving their all, 100% of the time.
Another part of Per’s philosophy when it comes to young players is how they’re treated.
At the moment, the skipper believes clubs are failing to provide the support these young people need at such a crucial time in their lives, not just professionally but personally.
When Per was a youngster, before he broke into Hannover 96’s first team, he had to work a year either in the army or for the community. The German picked working in a mental instituted as part of his community work and learned a great deal about compassion and being humble while there.
“When I went in I thought: ‘They need me.’ You can’t turn up and think: ‘I don’t care.’ It was something to put things in perspective,” he told the Guardian in August. “That privileged life we live is good but you have to respect what happens on the other side as well. When you have a high sometimes, just look back and think about that.”
This compassion has carried over into his work for Arsenal in the Community – the big guy visited a mental health football programme back in September – and it’s also effected how he would coach young players.