Arsenal are delighted to announce the appointment of UK Cypriot Mehmet Ali and Jack Wilshere as the new Head Coaches of our Under-21 and Under-18 sides, respectively.
Turkish Cypriot Mehmet joined them as Under-23s assistant coach back in January, and following a positive six months he will now take on the role of Head Coach for their Under-21s as well as their Professional Development Phase lead.
Max Porter will be joining Mehmet’s team as the Under-21s assistant coach, following his promotion where he was previously assistant coach to their Under-18s. Max has been in the game for several years making over 300 appearances at clubs including Barnet, Rushden & Diamonds, Newport County and Chelmsford City. Max joined them in 2019, when he took up a full-time coaching role.
Jack, a former academy graduate who made 197 Arsenal appearances between 2008 and 2018, during which time he won the FA Cup in 2014 and 2015 and the FA Youth Cup in 2009, is back working at the club where he takes on his first role in coaching, as the Head Coach of our Under-18s. Jack is married to Greek Cypriot Andriani Michael.
Adam Birchall will join Jack as the new Under-18s assistant coach alongside his new role as Under-17s Head Coach, moving from his previous position as Under-16s Head Coach. Adam developed through the academy as a player before joining Mansfield Town in 2005. Adam’s playing career spanned 11 years and over 300 appearances at clubs including Mansfield Town, Barnet, Dover Athletic and Gillingham, during which time he also made 12 appearances for Wales Under-21s. In 2016 Adam re-joined us as a coach and has gained valuable experience throughout the age groups.
Talking about his new role, Mehmet said: “It’s a great honour and privilege to be a part of this club and lead our Under-21s. 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.”
Jack, having spent some time back at London Colney last season working with their young players 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.”
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 Under-21s role.”
Luke Hobbs, our head of academy coaching said, “Myself and Per had every confidence that Mehmet was able to step in and be our Under-21 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.”