Former Arsenal star Per Mertesacker has said that it is his job to make life hard for Unai Emery by giving him a variety of young talents to pick from. Mertesacker believes Unai Emery’s willingness to play youngsters is proof that he is the right man for the Arsenal job and has vowed to do everything within his powers to support Arsene Wenger’s successor.
The former Gunners centre-back feels the club’s new manager has made an encouraging start to life at the Emirates. Emery signed a three-year deal with Arsenal ahead of the 2018-19 campaign, having left Paris Saint-Germain after just two years in the French capital.
The Spaniard faced a tough task to lead the Gunners into a new era after two decades under Wenger and he has experienced plenty of ups and downs in his first season in charge of the Emirates side. Arsenal went on a 22-match unbeaten run between August and December, but also notched up disappointing results against Manchester City, Liverpool and BATE Borisov.
Academy manager Mertesacker is adamant there is plenty of reason for optimism, however, and is looking forward to working together with Emery for many more years to come.
“At the moment we are really happy with him,” Mertesacker told Goal. “How he evolves the game and brings something different to the club. Being here I am trying to support him as much as I can with my focus and my years that I’ve had being here.
“[Under-23s manager] Freddie Ljungberg has the closest link to him because, on a day-by-day basis, he needs to provide players, or not. I am trying to guide it in a way but Unai is open to talking to me at any time. So I can come to his office when I want.
“He knew before he came that it is required, in a way, that he trusts the youth. That he promotes that at the club. I think that came naturally to him at the club as well. If he sees good talent and trusts it, then he will let them play.
“With the Europa League, we have the chance this season. On the one hand, we want to reach the Champions League. On the other, we have the chance to promote youngsters, but we are trying to get back to the Champions League, to prepare the youngsters for the highest level.
“I watch his training sessions and he is open to talking. He is talking about the days where we faced each other or played each other. He coached Valencia and I played for Bremen. These bonds and connections you have as football people are nice.
“All of a sudden you feel this great connection between him and myself. But we are building because we are in the early stages. He wants to reach Champions League football with the first team, he is very intense and bringing a lot of energy.
“It is a new chapter and era right now. It is a difficult job so we are trying to support him as much as we can with what he requires. Sometimes that’s good young talent and he is willing to promote them if they are ready.
“It is our job to give him a headache, make him think ‘where are all these youngsters coming from?’. That’s our job. That’s my job to make it easy for him to see these good young talents and that he can trust them. So the connection is growing and we are just at the start.
“It is not easy for him with the heritage of being the successor of Arsene Wenger. Being in that position, we have seen other coaches struggle at other clubs, with that scenario so I am trying to do as much as I can to support him. That’s my focus. I am very busy with that.”