Arsenal academy boss Per Mertesacker speaks: There’s alot of energy at the club
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Layth Yousif has been speaking with the Arsenal academy boss Per Mertesacker this week on a range of subjects. Read on for more his wide-ranging Q&A.
There was a massive improvement from the Arsenal U21 side in their 3-1 victory over Forest Green Rovers compared to last week’s 6-2 defeat against Cheltenham?
Yes, and what was important was when they got the goal we responded. We didn’t give away many chances after. I’m very pleased with individual and team performances, it’s important to us to advance to the next round.
Freddie Ljungberg’s side showed showed great character at New Lawn to be FGR to qualify the for next round of the Checkatrade Trophy?
Yes, I mean look at the effort, they were constantly trying to block the opposition. It was really important for them to play in such an atmosphere, I’m really impressed and grateful that we entered into this competition.
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This must have been the sort of game you wanted in the Checkatrade?
At the moment the status quo is having a lot of 18-year-olds playing, but we have to let them play. The response is great, to come here after travelling a long way, smelling some reality, it does us a favour. Now we’ll have more games in this competition and more chances to prove that some of the players are really ready for senior football. It proves to fans and scouts that these players can travel and play anywhere.
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Some of them could be ready for the Europa League potentially?
I’m not quite sure. We need to be patient with these youngsters, when you look at Bukayo Saka for example he’s already playing regularly in the U23s and adult football here. We need to be cautious and patient but you can see that we can play any system. Freddie’s doing a great job orchestrating this squad, pushing the U18s up. He’s not shy of playing them, giving them the confidence.
You look like you’re enjoying the role?
Yeah, it’s a totally new experience for me. I’m working more hours than I did as a professional footballer! But I’m enjoying building the relationships with players and staff. The academy system gets bigger and bigger and I’m really enjoying it. There have been a lot of changes in the club as well as the academy. Settling in takes time. I have to realise that and be patient [with myself].
Are you excited about those changes? It feels like a good time to be around Arsenal?
Any change has risk but also chances. We’re seeing the chances now. There’s a lot of energy in this place. First team, academy, women’s. We’re really happy with the new appointments no matter where they are. That everything connects in a proper way really takes time. When you have positive results that helps but you still need that time.
Is there anything about this job that surprised you?
Last season I had a good look at everything because I didn’t play regularly anymore. I was just training, obviously seeing young players with the first team. I could have a good guess [what it would be like]. But being in there full-time means something different. You have to put your presence in there and your full effort. You cannot just slide by and think people are doing the job for you. This takes complete effort and that’s what I’m giving. That’s why I’m here [at FGR] to see everything, to get a smell of what is the right way for our youngsters to go.
Follow Arsenal reporter Layth on Twitter @laythy29