Wilshere returns to Arsenal as U18s Head Coach

Jack Wilshere and Mehmet Ali 

Jack Wilshere and Mehmet Ali 

JACK WILSHERE has returned to Arsenal as Under-18s Head Coach, with Mehmet Ali promoted to U21s lead.

Wilshere is an Arsenal Academy graduate who made 197 appearances for the Gunners between 2008 and 2018. Last week the 30-year-old announced he was retiring from playing. He is taking his Uefa A Licence with the English FA and this is his first role in coaching.

He said: “It's a huge honour to have this role. It’s no secret that I love this club. I love what we stand for and a big part of my life was spent in this Academy, some of the best days of my life.

“This is a big opportunity for me and I'm ready. I'm hungry and can’t wait to help these young players thrive and be the best they can be on and off the pitch.

"It's a special feeling to be part of the Arsenal family. It never left me, and even though I moved on for a few years, my heart was always still at Arsenal. I can’t wait to get started and help these young players thrive with a great team around me."

Adam Birchall will be Wilshere’s assistant with the U18s, as well as becoming U17s Head Coach. He joined the Gunners as a coach in 2016 and was U16s Lead last season.

Ali joined Arsenal as U23s assistant in January, having previously been the U23s Head Coach at Reading. He will also be the Professional Development Phase Lead at Hale End.

“It’s a great honour and privilege to be a part of this club and lead our U21s,” Ali said. “I’ve already had six good months at the club, so I’ve got a sound understanding of the players.

“I’m now really excited and looking forward to continue working with the group and playing my part in developing strong young Gunners."

His assistant will be Max Porter, who has been promoted from U18s assistant. Porter joined Arsenal’s Academy in 2019.

Academy Manager Per Mertesacker added: “This is great news for everyone involved in our Academy. We have made a number of really positive changes in the last few weeks and I believe that we have the best possible people here to build on the progress that we’ve made in recent years.

"Everyone knows how passionate Jack is about Arsenal. He understands what we want to achieve here and he really impressed us last year. He knows exactly what it takes to progress through the Academy into first-team football.

"Mehmet also really impressed us in the last six months and we knew that he was the right person to take on the U21s role."

Head of Academy Coaching Luke Hobbs added: “Myself and Per had every confidence that Mehmet was able to step in and be our U21 Head Coach. His connection with the staff at Colney, his relationship with the players and his attention to detail on the grass has been second to none.

"With Jack, we’ve got somebody who is really enthused to be a coach. Jack has so many great qualities and will also bring his depth of knowledge and high-quality experience in terms of what it takes to be an academy player and transition to play in our first-team.”

The appointments have been made after former U23s Head Coach Kevin Betsy and U18s Lead Dan Micciche left to join Crawley Town.

Last year Wilshere lamented the fact that a raft of “proper Arsenal people” had left the club in recent seasons.

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