Arsenal U23 boss Freddie Ljungberg Q&A on Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Konstantinos Mavropanos, Emile Smith Rowe and much more
PUBLISHED: 13:00 05 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:00 05 February 2019
Arsenal legend and Gunners U23 boss Freddie Ljungberg has been speaking with Layth Yousif. Read on for his in-depth Q&A on Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Konstantinos Mavropanos, Emile Smith Rowe and much, much more.
The North London club’s highly-rated U23 side raced into a three goal half-time lead against West Ham U23s on a misty evening at Meadow Park on Monday.
However, the worsening fog meant that the Premier League 2 game was called off during the extended interval due to the lack of visibility.
The abandonment meant the result was void and first half strikes from Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock and Mavropanos were scratched from the records.
Despite the cancellation Gunners icon Ljungberg took time out from his busy post-match routine to talk to Layth at Boreham Wood.
What did you make of your team’s performance?
We played the football we wanted to play, finding the pockets, moving the ball. From now it’s City, this one it feels like the boys are really getting how we want to play. 3-0 up at half-time is not bad and Bukayo had two against the post.
Did you see who scored the third goal?
Yeah, of course I did. *laughs*
It must be useful for you as a manager to learn how to deal with moments like this early in your career?
It is but you get different emotions. You don’t have a clear answer, you’re winning 3-0 but what happens now? We’ll get an answer in two weeks. I spoke to Mkhi, he says we’ll start at 45, I don’t really know what’s happening. That’s for me to work out but, like you said, maybe it’s a good experience for me.
How good is it for your young players to play with someone like Mkhitaryan?
Of course it’s good but we’re trying to say to our players that when we get first-team boys join us it’s us that should help them and not the opposite. Sometimes young players get excited to be playing with these big names but they’ve not played for three months so it’s our job to help them. It’s amazing for the youngsters to play with Mkhitaryan but he needs help from my team. They did that really well. They were trying to get him in the right positions rather than saying ‘you take the ball and we won’t play’. We actually played our game and fed him the ball.
Mavropanos looked solid
Yes. He was very good, very good. He’s getting there, we’re just trying to get him a little bit of match fitness.
Emile Smith Rowe has gone to Germany, you must be eager to see how he gets on?
I’m confident he’ll do well. He’s a really good football player. This shows an intent from us that we get him to a good club in the Bundesliga. Hopefully it will give him a lot of experience and when he comes back in the summer he’ll be a better player. I’m very happy to see him going there, it’s the sort of steps we want our young players to take.
Will you be out there when Hoffenheim play Leipzig?
We’ve talked about it and I want to go see Reiss [Nelson] and Emile. At the same time I have to train the boys. But we’ve spoken about it internally, they need to have the attention that I go and see them.
What happened with Eddie Nketiah and the move to Germany?
There’s a lot of rumours about what happens. What happens behind the scenes stays behind the scenes. If the club or Eddie wants to make a statement that’s a different story.
The main thing for Eddie is that he stayed is because he’s so important to Unai that he wants to keep him. He should see that as a pat on his own back that he’s important to the club even if there were offers for him to go. That decision was up to Unai and the big bosses. It’s nothing to do with us.
You play Tottenham U23s a week on Friday, what are you expecting?
I must admit, even if it’s Spurs, they try to play football! You have to be objective as a coach. It’ll be a tough game I think but we’re playing really good football and I want to keep the momentum going. We had a break for three weeks but we’ve started again playing really good football.
I like that. When you’re a new coach and you start in the summer you have a lot of ideas. Maybe you see there’s a lot of pockets where you try to play, the underlaps where you get into the box like Joe did.
It’s nice to see what we call in Sweden the fruit of the labours coming through. We can see that against City last month and today. The players like how they’re playing and we’re playing well.
Follow Arsenal reporter Layth on Twitter @laythy29