Mertesacker aiming for ‘major titles’ at Arsenal after his ‘okay but not outstanding’ time as a player

News Desk
Per Mertesacker on Arsenal

Per Mertesacker has insisted that he and Mikel Arteta want to deliver the “major titles” to Arsenal that they failed to do as players.

The pair both signed for the Gunners on August 31, 2011. This was a few days after the club’s shocking 8-2 loss at Manchester United which emphatically proved Arsene Wenger’s assessment that he needed more quality in his squad.

Mertesacker and Arteta spend five years together in north London, with the Gunners qualifying for the Champions League every season and they played in the 2014 FA Cup triumph over Hull City.

Premier League titles and European success, however, were never in their grasp, but now – with Arteta in charge and taking Arsenal to the top of the table and Mertesacker, in his role as academy manager, looking after the future of the club – the German is hoping they can fill that void.

“If you just look at footballing success and us being in the squad, we saved a few Champions League seasons, a few FA Cups – that was OK but not outstanding,” Mertesacker said.

“But we wanted to build something now that maybe is more successful for the future of the club.

“That is what excites me. We couldn’t get it done in terms of league titles when we were here.

“Hopefully we can be more successful in terms of trophies and major titles and hopefully build up the next generation of players and people who can make the difference on the pitch as well.”

Signing for the club within hours of one another on transfer deadline day was just the start of a lasting relationship for the pair, Mertesacker eventually replacing Arteta as Arsenal captain when the Spaniard hung up his boots in 2016.

Arteta would leave for a role in Pep Guardiola’s backroom staff at Manchester City – but not before a secret gesture for his former team-mate.

“We have traits of taking responsibility and wanting to take people with us. I felt that. When he left us, he left (then chief executive) Ivan Gazidis a note saying ‘you can’t lose this guy’,” revealed Mertesacker.

“In terms of ‘you are losing me now, you are asking me too late’ because he had promised to go to City. He told Ivan, ‘you can’t lose this guy. Just put him somewhere’.”

Mertesacker would go on to retire two years later and was appointed academy manager before Wenger’s departure presented him with the chance to repay the favour to Arteta when it came to selecting Arsenal’s next first-team boss.

“Between him and Unai (Emery), I put a good word in for him,” he said.

“Without knowing how good he was as a coach, I knew how good he was as a human being and how much I trusted him. He called me when he didn’t get the job to say ‘thank you, I know you put my name forward’.

“A year and a half after when he then came, and Edu came (as technical director), it felt like the right time.

“It is a brilliant feeling that we have around this place, that we are creating. It is based on the past we had together and it is really powerful.”

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One step on the road to success for Mertesacker, who feels he needs another two or three years before his academy work starts to show, can come when Arsenal’s Under-18s host West Ham in the FA Youth Cup final on Tuesday night.

Another Arsenal alumni, Jack Wilshere, is in charge of the side – a former Mertesacker team-mate who he was pleased to see join the fold.

“I’ve been pretty impressed. I knew him from playing, but this doesn’t inform you,” added Mertesacker.

“Head coach is a big job. It’s not just about working on the grass and being a role model and an inspiration. It’s about how you deal with staff, with all the emails, with how you delegate.

“I was probably thinking he will not make that transition but he proved me wrong in that sense.”

As plenty of his contemporaries headed for the dugout, Mertesacker was earmarked by Wenger for his all-seeing academy role.

The 38-year-old did have a taste of coaching, stepping in to assist Freddie Ljungberg – yet another ex-Arsenal player – as the club searched for a successor for Emery, a role eventually filled by Arteta.

“I had the three weeks with Freddie and that was kind of the shock experience of my life, basically,” said Mertesacker, who feels he can contribute more to the long-term ambitions of the club in his current position.

“When I had to support him, that’s when I felt it was a bit overwhelming, almost coming back to my 15-year playing career – every week something is on the line, every result you have to take. I felt that was not something I wanted to pursue.”

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