Arsenal’s academy manager is proud of his former teammate who leads his Under-18s into the FA Youth Cup final against West Ham on Tuesday

When Mikel Arteta departed Arsenal in 2016, his playing days finished and a transformative apprenticeship in coaching with Pep Guardiola around the corner, he left a note for his chief executive. One extraordinary football mind was about to up sticks, for a few years at least, but another remained within reach. Arteta knew Arsenal could not afford to let Per Mertesacker slip away. “You can’t lose this guy,” he told Ivan Gazidis. “Just put him somewhere.”

Gazidis obliged. Two years later Mertesacker, once his centre-back career had wound down, became Arsenal’s academy manager; he had been offered the role at the beginning of his final season, smoothing the transition. He was known to be methodical, organised, cut out for the kind of upstairs position that might not necessarily be gratified with immediate rewards.

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