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Jack Wilshere: Former Arsenal and England midfielder appointed Gunners' U18 head coach

Jack Wilshere, who retired from playing aged 30 on Friday, said: "It's a huge honour to have this role. It’s no secret that I love this club. This is a big opportunity for me and I'm ready." Mehmet Ali appointed Arsenal U21s head coach

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Arsenal academy manager, Per Mertesacker, says Jack Wilshere has the club's full support as the former midfielder takes his first steps into football management with Arsenal's U18 side.

Jack Wilshere has been appointed as Arsenal U18 head coach, following his retirement from professional football last week.

Wilshere graduated from the Arsenal academy and went on to make 197 appearances for the club between 2008 and 2018, winning the FA Cup twice. He announced his playing career had come to an end on Friday at the age of 30, just a day after ending his five-month stint at Danish club AGF.

Wilshere, who also played for Bournemouth and West Ham during an injury-hit career, spent time last year working with the Arsenal youngsters but this will be his first official coaching position.

"It's a huge honour to have this role," the former England international said. "It's no secret that I love this club. I love what we stand for and you know 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.

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Jack Wilshere finishes off a stunning Arsenal team goal against Norwich in 2013

"It's a special feeling to be part of the Arsenal family. It never left me, 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."

Wilshere's five best career moments

  • That night against Barcelona – Arsenal were pitted against one of the best Barcelona sides of all-time, with a 19-year-old Wilshere tasked with coming up against Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Xavi. Against the nippy tiki taka football, Wilshere showed grit, trickery and an equal level of technical guile as Arsene Wenger’s side won 2-1 in one of the best nights in their recent history.
  • Goal of the season against Norwich – Wilshere didn’t score many across his career, but when he did it was special. His best in the Premier League was a beautiful one-touch team goal against Norwich in 2013, which saw him combine beautifully with Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud, which won goal of the season – an award he won a year later for a crashing effort against West Bromwich Albion.
  • Dominating Brazil – Wilshere made his England debut in 2010 but had to wait three years to become a Three Lions regular. He was awarded man of the match against Brazil in 2013 to announce himself on the international stage, playing a major role in England’s opener in a 2-1 victory – the Three Lions’ first win over the Selecao in nearly a quarter of a century. The biggest indication he would be England’s future.
  • Helping Arsenal win the FA Cup – it’s the second half of extra-time in the 2014 FA Cup final and Arsenal are locked in a 2-2 draw against Hull. Wilshere has been brought on in the brief Wembley interval and within four minutes, he plays a role in the winning goal. Wilshere’s incisive pass fell into the path of Yaya Sanogo, who played the ball into Olivier Giroud. The French forward’s flick found Aaron Ramsey in the box, who prodded home the winner. Wilshere’s intervention helped Arsenal end a run of nine years without a trophy, with the midfielder helping the Gunners to the same trophy a year later, also off the bench.
  • Saving England vs Slovenia – The Three Lions were 1-0 down away to Slovenia in a Euro 2016 qualifier in June 2015, when Wilshere took the game by the scruff of the neck. The midfielder scored two epic long-range efforts to put England back in front, with Roy Hodgson’s side winning the vital contest 3-2.

Wilshere will be supported by another former Arsenal academy graduate Adam Birchall, who will act as U18s assistant coach and U17s head coach, having previously led the U16s.

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Academy manager Pet Mertesacker said of Wilshere's appointment: "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."

Jack Wilshere’s injury nightmare

  • Ankle injury: November 2009 – 12 days – 4 games missed
  • Sprained ankle: July 2011 – 56 days – 10 games missed
  • Ankle surgery: September 2011 – 127 days – 25 games missed
  • Fatigue fracture: February 2012 – 104 days – 19 games missed
  • Knee surgery: May 2012 – 125 days – 6 games missed
  • Hairline crack in foot: March 2014 – 57 days – 11 games missed
  • Ankle injury: November 2014 – 90 days – 19 games missed
  • Hairline crack in fibula: August 2015 – 247 days – 47 games missed
  • Hairline crack in fibula: April 2017 – 112 days – 1 game missed
  • Ankle injury: September 2018 – 82 days – 11 games missed
  • Ankle surgery: December 2018 – 138 days – 22 games missed
  • Groin injury: October 2019 – 221 days – 22 games missed
  • Calf injury: September 2020 – 11 days – 4 games missed

In another academy appointment, Mehmet Ali has moved from U23s assistant coach to take on the head coach position of the U21s and lead the club's Professional Development Phase. Max Porter has stepped up from the U18s to act as his assistant.

Analysis: Why Wilshere's thrilling talent will endure

Jack Wilshere
Image: Jack Wilshere is the new Arsenal Under-18s head coach

Sky Sports' Nick Wright:

It is a sad end to a career that promised so much but memories of Jack Wilshere's thrilling talent will endure - especially to those who witnessed his mesmerising performance in Arsenal's 2-1 win over Pep Guardiola's Barcelona in February of 2011.

Wilshere had only turned 19 a month earlier. He stepped out at the Emirates Stadium that night as the youngest player on the pitch. But what followed, against perhaps the greatest club side in history, was an exhibition in fearlessness and technical brilliance.

There he was, on his own at the base of midfield, spinning past Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi. There he was, haring after Xavi Hernandez and Sergio Busquets, then motoring away from them, ball, crowd and opponent all under his spell.

By the end, he had completed 43 out of 46 passes - including the one to release Cesc Fabregas in the build-up to Andrey Arshavin's memorable winner - while only Messi had made more dribbles...

Read Nick Wright's feature on Jack Wilshere in full here

'Exceptional talent, but didn't play enough games'

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Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes Jack Wilshere has made the right decision to retire and gives his view on what could be next for the 30-year-old

Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on Sky Sports News:

"Well for me it is a sad moment, Jack is an exceptional football player, he has first not to thank us but himself as he was brave, talented, not scared of anybody and that is why we thought he could start from such a young age.

"He started in 2008 when he must have been 16 years old and that is, of course, exceptional at that level and straight away he has shown the quality to be a main player. And he stops at 2022 when he is 30 years of age and for a midfielder and a technical player, that is a fantastic age.

"And that sums up a little bit what Jack's career was - exceptional talent, but did not play enough games because of injuries and that is why in the end he stopped as it is very difficult when you are a star like he was and you cannot play at your best anymore and that is very difficult to swallow.

"You lose confidence and that is why he took the right decision, I believe as well that he has a coaching career in front of him, the fact that he could not go to the end of his potential might help him to be motivated to make a great coaching career. That is what I wish.

"Jack could unlock the game with his short passing, but also to unlock the game with his capacity to pass people one versus one and turn the game forward when you have no solutions.

"Jack started as a winger at a young age and he brought that into his midfield and could pass people and unlock the game. He was also not inhibited and not impressed or scared by anybody and not afraid of the big stage, he almost thought it was natural for him to be there.

"The Barcelona games for me were very special as Barcelona were, of course, a reference for us at the time and to see how we passed through players and how well he performed at that level - for me at that time the Barcelona team was the best in the world - then to see him perform at that level with such a quality convinced you that he is part of the best in the world.

"And with England as well he very quickly became an obvious choice and candidate.

"First of all, he has a great understanding of the game, I feel a midfield position suits well the development of a coach. After that, he is brave, he has good communication skills, he is honest and is intelligent. And overall on top of that, he certainly finishes his career frustrated and if he manages to transform that frustration into motivation to show how good he is at football, then I think he can have a promising career as a coach."

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