Ljungberg knows more about Arsenal's past and future than anyone else

Freddie Ljungberg knows more about Arsenal’s past and future than anyone else… he’s been likened to a schoolteacher and now his straight-talking style gets a go as interim boss after Unai Emery’s sacking

  • Arsenal sacked manager Unai Emery on Friday morning
  • Former Gunners player Freddie Ljungberg has taken charge on an interim basis
  • Ljungberg was promoted to Emery’s first-team coaching staff in the summer  
  • He has already been integral to the rise of Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka   

Freddie Ljungberg has taken charge of Arsenal as interim head coach following the sacking of Unai Emery on Friday morning. 

The former Gunners player takes over with the first-team in disarray, without a win in seven games in all competitions – their worse run of form since 1992. 

But what impact has Ljungberg made at the club already and how can he get a squad bereft of confidence back on track? Sportsmail takes a look…  

Freddie Ljungberg has taken over as interim head coach of the Arsenal first-team

Ljungberg’s work with Joe Willock (right) has resulted in his progression to senior action 

Freddie Ljungberg made a career out of spotting little gaps, picking the perfect time to make his move into them and pouncing.

The former attacking, goal-scoring midfielder clearly retains that happy knack, years on from his retirement. 

When Arsenal were plotting a summer reshuffle of their coaching set-up, Ljungberg identified a pocket of space he felt he could move into in the Gunners’ backroom team which would get the best use out of his qualities as a coach.

Clubs – player: 

  • Halmstad (1994-98)
  • Arsenal (1998-2007)
  • West Ham Utd (2007-08)
  • Seattle Sounders (2009-10)
  • Chicago Fire (2010)
  • Celtic (2011)
  • Shimizu S-Pulse (2011-12)
  • Mumbai City (2014)

Sweden (1998-2008) – 75 caps, 14 goals 

Clubs – coach: 

  • Arsenal Under-15s (2016-17)
  • Wolfsburg (2017, assistant)
  • Arsenal Under-23s (2018-19)
  • Arsenal (2019-) 

Under 23s manager last year, the Swede believed he could be utilised to help some of Arsenal’s promising youngsters make the leap from youth to senior football.

The idea was put to former head coach Unai Emery for his take, having built up a rapport with Steve Bould in his first season in charge at the Emirates.

Once he gave the positional moves the green light, Ljungberg was promoted to assistant first-team coach, while Bould replaced him in charge of Arsenal’s second string, returning to work with the academy which he had done during a previous 11-year stint.

Along with his first team coaching duties, Ljungberg’s also had a significant secondary role, in which he was effectively a transitions manager tasked with helping smooth the path for some of the players he has worked with in Arsenal’s youth set up into the first team.

He was Under 23s manager last season and also had a previous spell in the 2016-17 season coaching the club’s Under 15s and also their Under 19 UEFA Youth League side.

Ljungberg has quickly made his presence felt this season. 

Ljungberg gives some advice to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang against Southampton last week

Midfielder Joe Willock has made some big strides forward continuing his progress after a handful of first-team appearances last season.

His running stats during Arsenal’s matches and fitness tests in pre-season are understood to be among the highest of all of the entire squad.

And that work he has been putting in was rewarded, not just with game time in pre-season but a place in Emery’s Premier League team at the beginning of the season.  

Willock praised Ljungberg for the part he has played in his ongoing development.

The coach has been helping Reiss Nelson and his personal touch is appreciated by the players

The 20-year-old said in August: ‘Freddie is not only such a legend at the club, he’s an unbelievable manager and coach.

‘He’s a mentor for me, he showed me a lot behind the scenes that people don’t really know about. Every day I’m working with him and I’m learning from him. 

‘He’s improved my whole overall game. If I’m being specific, getting in the pockets when I’m playing No 10 and attacking at No 8. He showed me a lot of different tactics to get space and turn to attack other teams. Those are the main things really.’

Robbie Burton is another player whose story shows precisely what the value was of having Ljungberg on board.

Robbie Burton was made known to former manager Emery during pre-season by Ljungberg

The composed midfielder was a surprise inclusion in the 29-man squad for Arsenal’s pre-season tour of America.

And Emery admitted at the time: ‘He [Ljungberg] is helping us with the young players because he knows better than us every young player.

‘For example Robbie [Burton], I didn’t know Robbie. Freddie said to me he’s a good player with the capacity to play as a 6 or 8. Really he helped us like we needed.’

That insight is typical of what Ljungberg brought to the role.

Arsenal’s kids had a spring in their step over the summer knowing that with Ljungberg part of the backroom team, their prospects were enhanced.

The former midfielder assisted with the transition of youngsters under ex-boss Unai Emery 

Indeed, Ljungberg was keen to push the Gunners’ youngsters into as many first-team situations as possible whether that is in training or matches, to give them as much experience of what life is like at the very top.

As a member of Arsenal’s famous Invincible side of 2003/04, winner of two titles, three FA Cups and a Premier League player of the season award Ljungberg has legendary status at the club and an aura.

Yet it is his personal touch which has made him stand out for many of the Gunners’ young hopefuls.

The attention to detail and focus on specific elements of Willock’s game has been replicated with others too.

Ljungberg is a big fan of Bukayo Saka, another who has benefited from one-on-one time with Ljungberg, and who has emerged in the first-team this season.

Ljungberg has been working closely with Saka, passing on all his knowledge of the 17 year-old’s position to try and aid his development.

Bukayo Saka has broken through into the first-team this season with Ljungberg’s help

As a coach, straight-talker Ljungberg has been likened to that school teacher who is firm and commands respect but also liked by his pupils.

He appears to have struck the perfect balance of being able to put players in their place and tell them when they need to raise their game but also understand the human element of his role and that some of the players he is trying to help develop are still youngsters who need nurturing and constructive criticism.

That awareness has increased his popularity among players – a point which should not be understated as he now takes on first-team responsibilities, starting with a trip to Norwich on Sunday.  

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