Arsenal Friday feature – Rising coaching star Freddie Ljungberg says: I’m happy to be back
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FRIDAY FEATURE: Arsenal coach Freddie Ljungberg has been speaking to the Islington Gazette about his role at the club in producing young players and says: ‘It’s good to be back’. Read on for Layth Yousif’s in-depth interview piece after speaking with the Gunners icon.
It’s been another good week for the Arsenal youngsters bossed by the Gunners Swedish icon.
Emile Smith-Rowe’s fourth minute goal, substitute Eddie Nketiah’s cool finish on 71 minutes and a late Joe Willock goal sealed a 3-0 victory for Ljungberg’s Arsenal against the Sky Blues in their first match of the Checkatrade Trophy on Wednesday at the Ricoh Arena.
Ljungberg who also runs the U23 side has made a good start on his return to North London having won their previous two Premier League 2 matches against West Ham at the London Stadium and Spurs at the Emirates.
The much-loved former Gunners midfielder who won two Premier League titles and three FA Cups, scoring in two finals including the victory in 2002 over Chelsea has been tasked with developing the crop of talented youngsters at the club.
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However with Reiss Nelson moving to Bundesliga side Hoffenheim on loan and a number of other young players from England moving to Germany and other major European leagues is it better for starlets to move abroad early in their careers?
Speaking to the Islington Gazette the popular former attacker thinks before answering: “You mature as a human being by going abroad. I went to England as a 20-year-old and learned a lot.
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“It’s not that easy, learning a new language and stuff like that. That will help them on a personal level.
“But of course in Reiss’ case if he can play in the Bundesliga against men at that level that will get him more experience to get closer to the Arsenal first team.
“It’s a great pathway to go.”
I ask him if it is a deliberate strategy Arsenal are pursuing?
He replies: “It depends from case to case. For me personally the main thing is sending them to a club that plays similar football to you and you have good contact with the coach so you can feel how he is developing.
“If that’s in England or somewhere else it doesn’t matter so much but it needs to be equivalent to the football you want to play.”
Ljungberg ponders on the perennial problem of the lack of creative English players at the top level.
Despite the national team’s success in reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup in Russia this summer the Three Lions could have been aided greatly by more creative talent in the side, especially in the crunch game against Croatia in the last four.
Does this country – and Arsenal in particular – have the young talent to solve that thorny issue?
He answers emphatically: “Of course. You have great players. No doubt about it. But at the same time in my opinion the Premier League is the best league in the world.
“It’s not easy if you have the best teams in the world for a young player to come in and play regular football. Sometimes maybe going on loan abroad and showing you’re doing well makes it easier to lock in.
“One of the steps for us is playing against first-teams as we did [against Coventry], then they can get that bite and go more and more. Emile Smith-Rowe 100 per cent has the talent to do it.”
As the interview draws to a close one last question for Ljungberg – who has impressed on and on the pitch since returning from his Wolfsburg.
As a legendary figure in Arsenal’s long and illustrious history, how does it feel being back at the club?
The modest Swede answers: “I’m not sure about legend but thank you very much.
“I promised the club I’d come back after I did Wolfsburg and got that experience. I was grateful they let me do that. I’m very, very happy, I have a great job where I have the privilege to coach these players.”
Follow Arsenal reporter Layth on Twitter @laythy29