We love you Freddie, cos you’ve got red hair
We love you Freddie, cos you’re everywhere.
We love you Freddie, cos you’re Arsenal through and through.
Nearly 15 years ago today (15 years + 1 week to be exact) Arsenal signed a Swedish 21 year old striker who went by the name of Karl Fredrik Ljungberg. To Arsenal fans he became known Freddie Ljungberg. As Sid Vicious. As a Super Swede. He was loved by the fans. And got cult status. Mainly due to his red hair, as per the song above. Although when his career finished with us, he had less hair then Steve Bould!
Freddie Ljungberg deserves his cult status. He was brilliant for Arsenal, scoring many crucial goals in his 9 seasons for Arsenal. Scoring on his debut against Manchester United in 1998, he was immediately a key member of the Arsenal first team, shooting himself from Day One into the hearts of Arsenal fans.
His career for Arsenal peaked in the 2001/02 season, scoring 17 goals in all competitions, and perhaps more importantly, scoring in 5 of the last 6 Premier League games of the season as Arsenal went on to win the double. The same season, he also scored in The FA Cup Final.
He was a played who scored his goal’s in bunches. When he was hot, he was scorching:
- 2000/01 – 8 goals, inc 6 in 9
- 2001/02 – 17 goals, inc 7 in 9 & 7 in 8
- 2002/03 – 9 goals, inc 5 in 6
- 2003/04 – 10 goals, inc 4 in 6
- 2004/05 – 14 goals, inc 6 in 7
And this is where we come to the problem of Freddie Ljungberg, when he was not scoring, he was not doing much. In his Arsenal career, he only got 22 assists. He was not a great passer, could not cross and rarely tracked back. Yet he became an Arsenal great. Many fans, when making a ‘Wenger Era XI’ would have him right wing. And many more would have him in the starting line up of an All-Time Arsenal XI. In an Arsenal fans survey, he was rated as 11th greatest ever Gunner.
This ‘greatest’, for a man, who when he was not scoring, was not doing that much. The man reasoning behind this is he scored in many low scoring games, often popping up with crucial goals.
Now we come to Theo Walcott. A man who, despite looking like silencing his critics with a scintillating season last year, gets a lot of criticism still. Despite scoring an absolute peach of a goal to open the scoring in the tough away European Champions League game that was Marseille, he still gets criticised.
“He did nothing else”
“He did not track back”
“He was very quiet”
“He was not a threat”
Were some of the snippets from Twitter last night. Yet he scored. And that is the important thing. He once more came up with an important goal which saw Arsenal take 3 points away from home in Europe. 3 crucial points. And a crucial goal from Theo. So why did he get – and continue to get – criticism?
Let us look at some stats:
Freddie Ljungberg and Theo Walcott have an almost identical games per goal record. Whilst Freddie was deadlier, Theo Walcott creates a lot more than others. So this makes me wonder, why is Freddie Ljungberg an Arsenal great, whilst Theo Walcott is highly criticised by many?
The only difference I can see is Freddie Ljungberg had red hair.