Published: 01:46 EDT, 11 July 2017 | Updated: 01:46 EDT, 11 July 2017
Per Mertesacker is looking forward to overseeing Arsenal’s stars of the future – but wants to sign off with a fairytale finish first.
The German centre-half, 32, will end his playing career after the forthcoming campaign to become Arsenal’s academy manager.
However, he is not thinking ahead of his last season – and believes that the Gunners can give him the send-off he wants.
Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker is set to retire at the end of the current season
‘Looking back it was a fairytale end to last season,’ he explained of a campaign which saw Arsenal finish outside the top four but finish strongly and lift the FA Cup.
‘Now I am trying to do everything I can to get better. I am very excited about this season – to finish my career well.’
Mertesacker played a key role in Arsenal’s upset of Chelsea at Wembley in May and admitted he had even surprised himself with his performance.
The former Germany international wants to end his playing career on a high with the Gunners
‘I could not believe quite that I have got a game in me like that,’ he said. ‘Now, I want to get another chance to start off well and not be injured – that is my target.’
Mertesacker has been with the North London club for six years and is happy to see that long association continue through his new role.
‘It gives me a lot of pride,’ he said. ‘It shows that the club believes in me, not only as a player but they also see me (able) to develop young players – that’s why I am very happy and privileged to take over from next season.’
Mertesacker added that he could have extended his playing career but chose not to.
Arsenal landed in Australia on Monday as they prepare for two pre-season games down under
‘The decision on whether to stop was difficult,’ he said. ‘I was fortunate to play for 15 years and could make my own decision which is something I wanted.
‘When Arsenal had the idea I was up for it. To stop playing at the highest level is good for me – even if I could have gone somewhere else or gone to Germany for a couple of seasons.
‘I’m looking forward to my new role staying in football. Those were the kind of things that convinced myself.
‘My family is happy in London. What comes with that role we will define that in the next year.’
Mertesacker will become Arsenal’s academy manager when he ends his playing career