Tag Archives: Patrick Vieira

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.


Out with the old, in with the new

March 2006, Arsenal v Juventus in the Champions League. ‘The King is Dead! Long Live the King!’ was the first line of the match report as an 18-year Cesc Fabregas dominated a 29-year old Patrick Vieira in the middle of the park.

This Champions League tussle had gone worse than Vieira could ever have anticipated. Humiliated by his old side, booed by his old fans, the Juventus player’s performance had gone some way to vindicating Arsene Wenger’s decision last summer to say a sad farewell.

You know you’ve been slow to react when Robert Pires, not exactly known for his tackling, pinches the ball from behind with a neat sliding challenge. That ignomy befell Vieira on the halfway line just before half-time and if that made him feel bad what happened next would only have made things much worse. The resulting move was both simple and devastating. Pires to Thierry Henry, Henry to Fabregas.

The 18 year-old slipped the ball confidently past the stranded Gianluigi Buffon before ecstatically wheeling away to salute the West Stand. Over on the other side of the pitch Vieira stood motionless.

The match not only justified Wenger’s decision to finally allow Vieira to leave after about 5 years of flirting with Real Madrid – the Frenchman was a shadow of his former self; but also vindicated his decision to replace him with a teenage Spaniard.

Not content with just a goal that night, Cesc also added an assist as he dominated the midfield.

Fabregas, by this stage, was totally bossing the match, linking up constantly with Henry in the attacking third. It was beautiful to watch: two world-class talents in riveting form.

The promise soon turned into something solid, something wonderfully inventive when Fabregas embarked on yet another burst into the box. Once Alexander Hleb had spotted the run, the result was almost a foregone conclusion. Drawing Buffon and two grasping defenders, the composed teenager slipped the ball sideways to the waiting Henry. Goal number two and a very useful cushion to take to Turin.

Now Jack Wilshere was certainly no Patrick Vieira. Not even close, and Matteo Guendouzi is some way off 18-year old Cesc Fabregas – but then has any teenage central midfielder ever done what he has done? but the comparison is clear and obvious.

In the summer, 26-year old Wilshere decided to call time on his Arsenal career as Arsenal failed to meet his terms. The Englishman had been beset with injuries for years, and like with Vieira, many felt it was time for him to leave.

Joining the club was 18-year old Guendouzi from Lorient in the French second division. Not really seen as a replacement for Wilshere, a few good performances in pre-season pushed him up the pecking order to the point where he started against both Manchester City and Chelsea – games Wilshere would have been in the starting XI for.

Guendouzi has quickly become a fans favourite and against West Ham will face the old Prince of Highbury, Wilshere.

Wilshere has already spoken about how he has a point to prove that Arsenal were wrong to get rid of him. Interesting use of language there that the Englishman sees him leaving on a free transfer as Arsenal’s decision, not his.

Young Guendouzi, meanwhile, will be motivated to show that Arsenal were correct in letting Wilshere leave, and looking at younger, fitter players.

Since he joined the club, Arsenal have released Josh Dasilva to Brentford.

Dasilva was rated highly by many of those that had seen him, but he is 6 months older than Guendouzi, who is clearly ahead of him in the pecking order.

Like with Fabregas, it is easy to forget that Guendouzi is barely an adult. He only turned 18-years old in April this year.

Against West Ham, and against Wilshere, he will have a chance to have his Fabregas moment. To show that he is better than the man he replaced.

Like Vieira defined the beginning of the Arsene Wenger era, Guendouzi  could be the man to kick start the Unai Emery years.


Arsenal target Steve Bould replacement

There has been a lot of talk about Mikel Arteta and Patrick Vieira being on a short list to replace Arsene Wenger.

When you look at the other 3 names being heavily linked – Max Allegri, Luis Enrique and Joachim Lowe – the former Arsenal players are clearly inferior in terms of top level experience.

I have a theory that is not as left field as it might seem.

Arsenal are interested in recruiting Mikel Arteta and / or Patrick Vieira to join the coaching set up at the club, with the view of replacing Steve Bould and / or Boro Primorac.

With Wenger leaving, it is hard to see how Primorac remains at the club. He was bought in by Wenger, he is Wenger’s man, he is the assistant manager in all but job title, and will join Arsene wherever he go’s. There is also the potential the Neil Banfield, another bought in by Wenger in 1997, will also move on.

You then have Steve Bould. What does he actually do? Is he actually any good?

Arsenal will look to make a senior appointment. A well established manager who is recognised throughout the world as one of the best managers in the game. They will want to avoid the mistake Manchester United made when appointing David Moyes.

Moyes struggled to attract players to the club in his one and only season. Like it or not, Wenger was a draw at Arsenal. Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all mentioned that Arsene Wenger was part of the reason they joined Arsenal.

Picture the situation. You have Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta (at Arsenal) chasing a player. Who is that player least likely to be interested in playing for? Now change Arteta to Allegri, Enrique or Lowe. It will suddenly prick up their ears.

I honestly think Bould will follow Primorac out of the door when the new man comes in, and want Arsenal want is for Enrique, Allegri or Lowe to bring in their own coaching team, but also integrate either Arteta or Vieira as Assistant Manager.

Picture the scene. Luis Enrique is announced as manager. Arteta, a Spaniard who knows Arsenal is his assistant.

Or Max Allegri is the choice, and alongside him is Arsenal’s last great captain – Patrick Vieira. And Vieira spent 6 years playing in Italy.

Both will do the multi-role of coaching players, being the link between the players and manager, translator and ensuring that the new manager understand what it means to be at Arsenal.

At Barcelona, Raul Sanllehi clearly liked to promote from within – or employ former players – as manager.

It was during Sanllehi’s reign that Pep Guardiola promoted from manager of Barcelona B to the full team. His next appointment was Tito Vilanova, who was Guardiola’s assistant manager.

Luis Enrique followed Guardiola into the Barcelona B job. He then spent a year at Roma and Celta Vigo, before rejoining Barcelona.

The only time Sanllehi went away from getting in someone with “Barcelona DNA”, it was a colossal failure. Gerardo Martino managed the club between Vilanova  and Enrique.

Ernesto Valverde was his most recent appointment. The Spaniard spent 2 years at Barcelona in the late 80s.

The remit given to Sanllehi when he joined Arsenal would have been “turn us into Barcelona” so it is only natural that he follows the same blueprint that Barcelona used so successfully under his guardianship. Recruiting from within.

He would have assessed those currently at Arsenal, the likes of Steve Bould, and decided that they are not managerial material. That means he needs to look outside, those who are not currently with the club.

The likes of Arteta, Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry. The problem is all these names are unproven, and he has not seen them work. So a move for a big name manager seems natural – with Arteta and / or Vieira joining the coaching set up.

It will then be up to one of those two, alongside Per Mertesacker, to continue their development whilst the new manager is in, putting themselves in a position where they are ready to take over in 2 or 3 years time when he stands down.

I can easily see the next 10 years of Arsenal managers being (for example): Allegri/Enrique > Arteta/Vieira > Merteseacker.

And all of this is just idle speculation.