Per Mertesacker believes that the Arsenal youth coming through the academy have great potential and are of a high quality.
Per has been speaking about how much he enjoys working with younger Arsenal players who have risen through the academy such as Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock.
Both starlets have now featured for the first team but the BFG admits this can be a confusing time for up-and-coming players, who he aims to help.
“It’s good for me to see these youngsters on a daily basis,” the centre-back said, reports Arsenal.com.
“They went with us on tour and now they’ll keep training with us, which is really important.
“It’s not only one or two weeks where you show up and show your skills, or in one or two games. It’s the consistency and it’s really important that they understand when there is doubt or they feel there is a gap between youth and first team, they need to express themselves by coming to the first team and communicating.
“They’re welcomed. If there’s anything I can help with, they need to understand that they can talk – there is no need to hide. They need to feel welcome because they’ve done a lot for us, they’ve contributed.
“To do that on a consistent level, because they’re not in the first-team dressing room at the moment, it creates a little bit of a gap. That can mean they don’t know where they are. Are they Under-23s, Under-19s or first team? It’s important that we keep in touch and communicate well.
“They’ve got huge potential and have high levels of skill, but it’s what you make of it. That’s something I’m going to address in the next couple of years. I respect them highly but the only ones who will make it are the ones who make the most of their potential.
“Talent means nothing to me – it’s all about hard work. I put the emphasis on making sure that they’re not told how talented they are too much. Talent is what you make of it. Finally, you’ve lifted the World Cup and the FA Cup.”
Nelson got his first senior start on Wednesday night in the League Cup against Doncaster Rovers and while the 17-year-old didn’t have the best game, which was partially down to being played out of position, he showed massive potential in the Emirates Cup in pre-season.
Willock played just six minutes, so it was hard to judge his overall performance against Donny during the 1-0 win. However, the 18-year-old also impressed in pre-season.
It’s now down to Per, who takes over as head of the academy at the end of the season, to teach the teenagers how to deal with their time on the pitch.
Nelson made his first start and played for a total of 84 minutes. Therefore, he’ll have gotten a good idea of how he performed. If he’s disappointed, Per is the person who will go to him and tell him to learn from his mistakes and move on. If he’s over-the-moon, Per will let him enjoy it but then bring him back down to earth ready for the next match.