Arsenal have been lucky enough to enjoy some of the finest exponents of the game wearing the cannon. Players who have illuminated the pitch with their talents and inspired millions of supporters.
These blessed men were given assets and they used them for the benefit of the club, and for this we must be thankful. Some of them though, never quite got on board with the ethos of The Arsenal – the fabled ‘Arsenal Way’ – and as such, the transition from playing titan to coach is one that is best done at another outfit.
Arsenal are not just a team, they are a way of life. It is the way you carry yourself, it is the manner in which you do everything, not just what you do on the pitch. Youngsters must first learn this before they wear the shirt for the first team.
Just like ‘Gentleman’ Bob Wilson said;
“It was this feeling you were wearing this big gun on your chest and everywhere you went, my word, you felt proud to be wearing it.”
So we can count ourselves lucky that we have a manager that looks to carry on these fine traditions. It is our identity and it means every new appointment behind the scenes – especially the coaching side – must be made with the sagest of decisions.
This is why Per Mertesacker’s posting as Head of the Arsenal Academy from next season is yet another brick in the foundation, and a continuation of the work that has taken place since 1886.
The lanky German has been front and centre of most media involvement from the moment the top of his head scraped the London Colney doorframe in 2011. So many Arsenal catalogue images of this gangly fellow on Arsenal emblazoned trikes, or ensconced in an Arsenal branded sleeping bag. On foreign tours he was first up to dress up and be the face of our own brand.
Per has not only been enthusiastic about representing Arsenal in any way, he has led the most professional of lives and reportedly trains diligently every week. In and out of the team in the last couple of years, Mertesacker has done nothing other than fight to force his way back into Wenger’s plans.
There are two key points though, that highlight just how effective the decision was to give Mertesacker the job of overseeing the next generation of Arsenal players.
Firstly, his performance in last season’s FA Cup Final was nothing short of miraculous. Not to diminish Big Per’s level of talent, but who expected the German to pull a performance like that out of the bag? No starts last season, up against title-winning Chelsea, and with a green defensive partner to keep an eye on, Mertesacker not only snuffed out the Blue threat for the majority, he did so without any nefarious methods. It was pure defending, and proof that pace may be useful, but just like Italian legend Paolo Maldini once said;
“If I have to make a tackle, then I have already made a mistake.”
True dat Paolo.
We can also look to Mertesacker’s insistence on spreading his knowledge to the younger members of the squad, and his role as the senior member who all look to under moments of duress. Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin, Ozil and others have all mentioned how Per is the one to take players aside and set them back on track should their courses need correcting, or if anyone needs a stern talking to, then it is the big man himself who assumes the role.
Mertesacker, whenever he leads the line on the pitch, looks like he has the ear of everyone in the team. He has been a great leader for us, and now our Academy recruits can look forward to learning so much from this World Cup winner.
Mertesacker is au fait with The Arsenal Way, he adores the club, and we should all be delighted that his experience will be pumped back into the club rather than anywhere else. Our traditions will be carried on, and the kids will benefit from one of the wisest players available.