Freddie Ljungberg – Heir Apparent?

As reported by the brilliant Jeorge Bird over on his Arsenal Youth blog Freddie Ljungberg has been coaching senior training sessions alongside Unai Emery in the international break.

Over the years, there has been plenty of moaning and bitching that Arsenal do not have enough former players still around the club as coaches. There was a time it felt like some fans wanted Arsene Wenger’s coaching staff to contain about 30 ex-players.

The rise of Freddie Ljungberg highlights just what an ex-player can achieve if they have the desire, motivation and ability to become a top coach.

Ljungberg rejoined Arsenal in an ambassadorial role in 2013. 3 years later it was confirmed that he would be joining Arsenal’s Academy coaching Arsenal’s Under-15s.

He was starting in a lowly position overseeing the U15s. He did not expect to walk straight in as a first team coach, or overseeing the U21s. He did not complain, he did not have an enflated ego, he just got on with things.

After the appointment of Andries Jonker as the new manager for VfL Wolfsburg in early 2017, it was announced that Ljungberg would be leaving The Arsenal to join him as his assistant.

After  the departure of coaches in May 2018 following the departure of Arsene it was announced that Ljungberg would return as the U23 coach. Overseeing the side in the Premier League 2 development league.

Under Ljungberg, the U23’s – actually made up of mainly U19’s – have been in impressive form. Currently on a 6 game unbeaten run. They sit 2nd in the league.

Ljungberg has worked his way up from the bottom and is potentially putting himself in prime position to succeed Unai Emery.

Patrick Vieira, Tony Adams and Thierry Henry are the 3 most high profile former players that many fans said should still be at the club. All 3 had the opportunity to do what Ljungberg did, but all chose a different path.

Upon retirement, Vieira took up an extremely well paid job as Manchester City’s Football Development Executive. It was basically a job with no real role. He was basically a glorified club ambassador for which he was paid handsomely for – much more than he would get as a junior coach at Arsenal.

In simple terms, Vieira still had a year left on his contract when he retired, and Man City honoured that last year by giving him the highly paid meaningless job. It was only a couple of years later he went down the coaching route.

Arsenal never really offered him work at the club. He was playing for Manchester City when he retired, and took up his new role with the club the day he called it quits. He stayed at City, rather than seek employment elsewhere, for the money.

Then we have Thierry Henry.

He was offered the U18 managers job, but only wanted to do it part time so that it did not interfere with his Sky punditry work.

You can not really be a part-time manager at youth level.

The U18’s tend to play at weekends. Was Henry really proposing that he would coach players during the week, and then on game-day would be sitting in the Sky studio watching Stoke v Burnley instead of being on the touchline?

It was never going to work.

Tony Adams was always an odd one. He has been offered numerous coaching roles at Arsenal but has always turned them down. My feeling is he looks down at the junior roles. He wants a senior role, with the first team, or nothing.

The problem is his coaching career to date has shown him to be an average coach at best. Is he really good enough to expect to just walk straight into a senior role? Why does he think coaching the U18’s (a job he turned down) was below him?

Vieira, Henry and Adams all had their own reasons not to be working at Arsenal. If they wanted to, they could have all been part of the coaching set up, but it was their decision to not take a job.

Arsenal should not bow down to their demands, whether it is financially, job roles of flexi-time, just because they are legends.

Ljungberg is doing things the right way. Taking small steps up the ladder. He certainly has a bright future ahead.

Keenos

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