Listening to Per Mertesacker on the Beautiful Game Podcast, it immediately stood out to me that if Arsenal wanted to carry on their policy of hiring ex-players as managers, they could do worse than BFG.
The club noticed the leadership of our ex-captain by offering him the role as Academy Manager, a job he never considered.
Where Arsene Wenger took too long, in my opinion, to trust his ex-players to work behind the scenes, the club head hunted their defender once he announced his retirement.
He oversees the development of 150 players and 70 staff which immediately highlights he has leadership qualities.
Most of all though I believe that finding a solution you first must admit there is a problem.
At a time where Mikel Arteta described beating Norwich 1-0 as his best week as a manager, it’s refreshing to hear an employee of AFC has this outlook.
Hopefully he passes this attitude onto the kids he works with…
Here are 10 things I learned from Mertesacker’s interview
Somewhere in BFG’s desk is an action plan based on a 3-year period.
This isn’t as simple as ticking a box if a teenager makes a cameo appearance in the Carabao Cup.
Success is seen as: if they can develop a percentage of talent for the Premiership and/or how much money the department has made the company.
9 Mr Wenger Suggested Him
To give an indication of Arteta’s reputation as a coach at the time, Arsene Wenger didn’t want Arsenal to lose BFG to another club like he did when Arteta retired.
Which tells you a few things.
Our ex-manager recognises the potential Mertesacker has to be a future manager?
maybe he didn’t see it in Arteta? Or the Frenchman maybe regrets not sooner transitioning ex-players into the set up?
Mocked by fans early on, BFG openly admits to struggling when he first arrived in the Premiership due to the pace and physicality of the English game.
He credits Mr Wenger for never giving up on him even after a mistake and his resilience as a player is now helping him when teaching a group of players.
The classic ‘you need to fail to learn’.
The way staff made him feel at his lowest made him realise the importance of youngsters needing the same.
7 BFG Final
We all remember BFG’s performance against Chelsea in the FA Cup Final, considering when injuries meant he had barely played the entire season.
That never would have happened though had Arsene Wenger listened to his centre back.
‘Having a wobble’ the defender asked his manager to send him on holiday stressing that he couldn’t contribute anything to the squad.
In no uncertain terms Mr Wenger pointed out what he meant to the team and that he was needed. For BFG to have so much self-doubt, and then be Man of the Match at Wembley just 5 weeks later is incredible.
6 Never Had the Bug
Since retiring he has never missed that feeling of playing.
Which shouldn’t be a shock to hear as in his last year as a professional he admitted how he would be filled with anxiety in the build up to match days.
He sees himself as lucky that he had a job waiting for him which has kept him involved in the sport.
As a ‘club man’ BFG is honest, where others might say what fans want to hear.
While very few like the ‘transition’ word, BFG insists the quicker fans accept we have to be patient to get back to our previous levels, the easier it will be.
He seems to suggest that Arteta (and others at the club) have accepted this is a long-term project, whereas when Arteta first joined from Man City he thought it would be an overnight turn around.
Arteta was BFG’s captain at the club, so you wouldn’t expect him in an interview to hang the Spaniard out to dry.
Yet the German is so honest in this interview that you sense that he wouldn’t say anything if he didn’t mean it.
He couldn’t do more to stress the need for Arsenal to build foundations as their most likely route to success.
He goes into detail that when Van Persie and Vermaelen left, Arteta overnight took over as a leader.
Even as a player, his passion for Arsenal’s adhering to certain values was very real.
BFG maintains that the feedback he has had is that Arteta’s training sessions are very enjoyable and viewed as revolutional.
BFG gave an insight into how Edu works.
Edu essentially stressed that he would be the boss in terms of the running of the day-to-day issues of the club, while he’s trusted to be the boss when it comes to the academy.
It was a surprise to learn that Edu will often offload his feelings onto BFG and seek his opinions.
In other words, BFG is a huge part of the long-term vision the Gunners have. Hence why I wouldn’t rule him out being our manager one day
2 Succession Plans
One thing Arsenal have that they maybe didn’t have in recent years, is a clear structure throughout the club.
Whether it works, time will tell – but clearly a long-term plan has been put in place in various departments.
BFG says part of his remit is to help grade where each player is currently at.
He will rate the first team, those on loans, under 18’s and under 16’s, etc.
All of that information is accessible to Edu when looking for a player.
1 The Future
If Arsenal ever needed a PR speaker, they could do worse than BFG.
Asked if he could reassure gooners about the state of the club and if there is a positive future, the 36-year-old did better than most to convince me that maybe just maybe Arsenal have a plan.
The German kept reiterating the need to build foundations, even saying the owners want to be more involved.
It does seem from this interview that the whole club has made a considerable effort to address each department.
Arsene Wenger had so much control at the club that when he left, Arsenal found themselves maybe behind the modern game in terms of one manager didn’t run every aspect of a club anymore.
Perhaps idealistically, each department will be given time to become strong while re-establishing Arsenal’s values that maybe have been passed over in the last couple of years.
As a Gooner who’s been quite depressed about the outlook of our club, this is the most refreshing, realistic interview I have heard in years.
Well, done BFG….
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