Per Mertesacker has explained why he decided to become head of Arsenal’s academy after his contract expires at the end of the season.

Mertesacker, who spent 12 months helping out at an institute for the mentally ill before he made the first team at Hannover, wants to become head of Arsenal’s academy so that he can help give young players the tools they need to be strong mentally as well as physically before they join the first team.

“Whatever is needed to make them as strong as possible when they face adversity, that’s basically the target,” the German told the Guardian in a fantastic interview conducted by Stuart James.

“How can we make them as resilient as possible in situations when they get released or in the best possible position for themselves, like when they go first-team training. How can we get them in the best possible position where they feel good about a Plan B. I want players to think: ‘OK, this has happened now, what is next for me?’ That’s a very big target because what are academies about nowadays? Is it really just to find one or two players? But what happened to the others? I’m very, very interested in that.

“Are those released strong enough to still be in a position where they think: ‘I’m not being a footballer, but I’ve got interests in that and that.’ I think the focus is pretty much on football, football football. And I know that is the priority. And it’s a lot of money involved. But still, how many percent really make it throughout the system? There has to always be a Plan B, I feel. That’s why I kept going with my school – I wasn’t talented. That’s what’s the difficulty – you want to define key talents when they are 12, 13 or 14? When I was that age I was nowhere near. People had given up on me.”

The centre-back is popular at Arsenal, especially among the young players who claim that he’s a brilliant leader and gives great advice. Therefore, it stands to reason that he’d want to continue helping the youngsters out while still working at the club he’s supported since childhood.

The BFG is an overall good egg and the club are privileged to have him on board once his contract runs out at the end of the season.

The 32-year-old is yet to make an appearance in either of Arsenal’s two Premier League fixtures this term after colliding with Gary Cahill’s elbow in the Community Shield. He’s since recovered but was only on the bench against Stoke behind Shkodran Mustafi, who was first choice centre-back alongside Laurent Koscielny last season and is also fit again.

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