Arsenal academy chief Per Mertesacker outlines regret over failed transfer strategy

Norwich City v Arsenal: Pictures

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Arsenal head of academy Per Mertesacker believes the Gunners are now in a “state of upheaval” after admitting the club “fell on our face” in previous transfer windows. Mikel Arteta’s side are reaping the rewards of a bold summer transfer window which saw over £150million invested in Ben White, Aaron Ramsdale, Martin Odegaard, Albert Sambi-Lokonga, Nuno Tavares, and Takehiro Tomiyasu.

All six players represent a new change to Arsenal’s transfer blueprint which saw the north Londoners target promising talents who were below the age of 23-years-old.

However, their boldness in the summer transfer window is paying off, as the club are currently nestling in the Champions League places, four points ahead of fifth-placed West Ham United.

Their 5-0 away demolition of Norwich City was Arsenal’s fourth consecutive Premier League victory and fifth in all competitions.

And Mertesacker believes their new approach to targeting and signing players aligns with the club’s values more than their previous strategies of signing tried and tested players at great expense.

“We are in a state of upheaval and are building a team capable of development, which should be peppered with players from our own youth and professionals from abroad,” Mertesacker said in an interview with German outlet Suddeutsche Zeitung.

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“In the meantime, we had lost our way. We tried to make the connection to the top faster with costly commitments. We fell on our face with that.”

In previous transfer windows, Arsenal tried to supplement their sides with top level players they believed would fire them back to the top of English football.

Unfortunately, those arrivals set the club back millions in transfer fees and wages and very rarely delivered the desired results.

Before this summer’s newly refreshed outlook on transfers, Arsenal had forked out £293m in the three seasons that followed Arsene Wenger’s retirement.

Arteta’s predecessor Unai Emery particularly struggled to find the right players in the transfer window, having spent £72m on Nicolas Pepe alone.

While the Ivory Coast international’s youth means he still has time to turn things around at the Emirates Stadium, he is currently behind the likes of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe, and Gabriel Martinelli in the pecking order.

At first, Arteta and technical director Edu’s transfer plan was not initially well received, after the Gunners lost their opening three Premier League matches to Brentford, Chelsea, and Manchester City.

Edu himself even clarified their vision and the plan in an interview with Sky Sports News, shortly after the 5-0 away demolition to Pep Guardiola’s side left them bottom of the league.

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However, the picture has improved drastically, with the club finding themselves in a very strong position inside the top four heading into the New Year.

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And Mertesacker believes Arteta’s trust in the club’s academy stars and his ability to ingratiate their talent amongst the more senior players has been the key this season.

“It is not easy to find successors who bring good ideas and who at the same time involve club employees,” Mertesacker added.

“Mikel has a different knit than Arsene, [he] is intense and focused.

“He tries to be very active as a trainer, to respond to the new generation and to clearly show what is required.

“The current generation needs more requirements, while in my time much more was regulated in dialogue with one another.”

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