Per Mertesacker to become Arsenal academy manager in 2018

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Arsenal captain Per Mertesacker will take charge of the club's academy at the end of the 2017-18 season, when he will retire as a player, the club have announced.

Mertesacker will play for the club in the coming season after being handed a one-year contract extension in January, but will also prepare for a switch to a coaching role.

"He will continue as an important part of our squad while developing his knowledge and understanding of the academy," the club said in a statement.

Mertesacker has long been tipped for a coaching career, with the former Germany international often praised for his leadership qualities and understanding of the game.

The 32-year-old, who joined Arsenal from Werder Bremen in 2011, told the club's website: "This is the start of an exciting new chapter for me and I am delighted that I will be able to stay part of the Arsenal family.

"This season I will remain fully focused on my job with the team and am looking forward to a successful last season on the pitch. After that, I look forward to the exciting challenge of helping produce young players good enough to play for the Arsenal first team."

Mertesacker's early appointment is another sign Arsenal are increasing their efforts to keep former players involved in the club, with Wenger also having hired Jens Lehmann as part of his backroom staff this summer.

In contrast, former captain Mikel Arteta left for a job at Manchester City after retiring as a player last year, while former greats Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp have all found coaching roles elsewhere.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said: "Per is an exceptional character who is a great example for young players. He is a deep thinker about the game and committed to helping players fulfil their potential. He will be an inspirational figure for everyone connected with the academy."

Mertesacker was handed the captain's armband by Wenger last summer despite having suffered a serious knee injury that ruled him out for most of the season.

He only returned for the team's final two games of the campaign, but was widely praised for his near-perfect performance in the FA Cup final at Wembley as Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1.

A World Cup winner with Germany in 2014, Mertesacker has also won the FA Cup three times with Arsenal.

Arsenal defender Calum Chambers said in June that Mertesacker had acted as a mentor to him.

He said: "The one player who has helped me a lot would be Per. Being in the same position, he was almost like my mentor for a couple of years. I have never seen a player so professional and dedicated.

"Every little thing he could do he did. There were times when he would be looking at me and saying 'you could do this' and that's rubbed off. That's helped me realise the little things you do, the tiny little one or two per cents, get you where you want to be."