Per Mertesacker had his first day as manager of the Arsenal academy on Saturday, watching the u18s take on Chelsea.
After being appointed to the role earlier this year, and seeing off his playing days to cheers and applause at the Emirates Stadium, Mertesacker took a couple of months away from the club before starting his new job.
Now Arsenal have confirmed he’s back and ready to go, watching the u18s play at the Chelsea training ground in Cobham.
Chelsea’s u18s ended up winning the match 3-1, with a Folarin Balogun goal not proving enough to help the team to complete a comeback. The Blues’ academy continues to impress, particularly in the younger age groups, and hopefully it will give Mertesacker an idea of what Arsenal are up against.
The Gunners have done a better job than most at integrating their young players into the senior side in recent years. Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi are first team regulars, and players like Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson and Ainsley Maitland-Niles all got a lot of chances last season.
If they could learn from the other top academies around the country and further improve the quality of players coming through, along with that focus on first-team integration, Arsenal could set themselves apart from the rest in youth development terms.
Good luck to Per in his new role!