Thursday, July 7, 2022

Ljungberg deserves credit as Arsenal U23s finish second

Arsenal U23s may have finished their season over a week ago, but, with all of the matches in the division having now been played, it has been confirmed that the young Gunners have finished second.

They may not have been able to replicate last season’s title success, but Arsenal have still produced some excellent performances and conclude the campaign just four points adrift of leaders Everton.

There were some difficult moments for Freddie Ljungberg’s team, and they struggled when having to balance their league commitments with their involvement in the Checkatrade Trophy.

Once their participation in the latter competition was over, however, Ljungberg’s team started to express themselves better, with both their results and performances starting to improve.

Some of the players were initially a little bewildered when Ljungberg elected to alter the tactics that were behind last season’s title success, when Steve Gatting was in charge.

Ljungberg switched to a 4-1-2-3 formation and gave greater freedom to Joe Willock, who produced some outstanding performances as he frequently made dynamic runs from midfield.

Like Unai Emery, Ljungberg demonstrated that he wasn’t afraid for his team to pass the ball back to the goalkeeper, and his team proceeded to deliver some superb swift counter-attacks.

As the campaign wore on Bukayo Saka, despite only being a first year, became one of the most influential players in the team, while on the opposite flank Xavier Amaechi also often impressed.

Ljungberg also gave an opportunity to Arthur Okonkwo late in the campaign, and the goalkeeper seized it as he kept three clean sheets in four games.

By the end of the season, Ljungberg had got Arsenal playing exactly how he wanted, with his side often destroying opponents in a quick burst in the first half before conserving energy and seeing out the game with a disciplined performance in the second period.

During his first season in charge of the U23s Ljungberg has certainly enhanced his reputation as a coach, although further challenges will lie ahead next term.

Jeorge Bird is the author of Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird


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I wonder if the tactics have come from Emery as a plan for the future


It certainly reads like that and would make sense that the first team feeder team plays the same style. (Although “disciplined performance in the second half” would be nice to see from the grownups too!).

Faisal Narrage

I don’t believe this is the case completely. I think we’re considering the days of Wenger and the u23s mimicking the first team, but this isn’t the case. Freddie is his own man, and playing from the back is as much his philosophy as it is Emery. Also, he regularly used a 4-1-2-3/4-3-3, which I don’t think Emery has even used all season with us (which I would really like us to do, as I think guys like Iwobi would work better as part of a 3-man midfield). I’m glad of Freddie’s season, because I did suspect, if things don’t… Read more »


I imagine there is a heavy amount of coordination between Emery and Ljungberg

Owl faced Deeney's cojones

Arsenal leadership said few months ago, Mertsacker was part of their decision-making meetings.


Would be great if we could get a few lads through next season. I think building a young side might be our best option, the squad needs huge surgery, and I just don’t think there are any quick and easy fixes. We don’t have many sellable assets, we’ve got players out of contract, ageing players, an overinflated wage bill, and what looks to be an underwhelming and insignificant budget. Taking the time to build a young team, will likely be a huge part of Emery’s job description. The main problem will be large sections of our fan base, who seem… Read more »


Where was Freddie coaching before coming back home out of interest?


Arsenal academy u15s for a few years, and then Wolfsburg with Joncker for 6 mos. until Jonckers was sacked.


Ahh yes.
Had an inkling there was a departure at some point, has some good background with the youth players then and Jonker rated him highly – looks like he started as an ‘ambassador’ like Pires presently?.
(I remembered there was Google after posting).

Man Manny

Could it be that Ljungberg is the man for any eventuality? A Zidane-sque solution from within.

Jean Ralphio

I like the idea of promoting managers from within. Worked well for Dortmund and Barcelona of course.


I hate that idea, it’s a form of nepotism. Just pick the best candidate, a managers history with the club, won’t make the slightest bit of difference if their not up to the job. Pep has done well…. but he took over a squad of players at Barca that was maturing at the right time, and had Messi, which is the equivalence of playing with 12 men every week. He then had to take 12 months off due to the stress of so much winning?…… Then took the Bayern job, who were the European champions, where he had the best… Read more »

Owl faced Deeney's cojones

I would prefer Vieira or Henry. Please do not come up with Henry’s failure at Monaco. Guardiola would have failed with that team as well. After Henry left, they moved from 18th to 17th with new players like Fabregas, Gelson Martins.

Faisal Narrage

No to Henry.
Not just in performance, but in his attitude and the things revealed about his behaviour mainstream then players; being frustrated as to why they can’t do things he can, then getting involved in the actual coaching sessions. Indicate someone with serious ego issues.

I don’t mind Vieira, but he hasn’t shown anything extraordinary as a coach. May just be a very competent coach.
May be the same with Freddie, but he does know our youth players, which is an advantage in particular if we go towards the direction of using more of our talented academy youth players.


and there is still Arteta

Tony Adams Nose

There is still Mertesacker who seems to carry some weight at the club.


I hope he can learn a lot and perhaps become a future Arsenal manager. Would be brilliant to have a legend like him as manager if he’s competent. Kind of like Guardiola rose from Barcelona B.

Fart Overjars

Fair play to Freddie the youngsters who have made the step up from his side have outstanding.

Willock in particular can feel aggrevied at not getting into the squad after Ramseys injury. He was outstanding in the cup games and has real goal scoring ability. Perhaps Emery thinks he needs to go on loan?

Not to mention the gleeful prospect of riess nelson.

Sir John King

Just thought to drop in that Salomon Kalou scored a goal today for his team in Germany. The man’s a proven goal scorer. Go get him!


4-1-2-3 is what I would love to also see first team play, think it gives midfield best balance to control play


I don’t even dare to dream right now, tough road ahead, but Freddie as first team coach…swoooooooon.

When you say, Ljungberg also gave an opportunity to Arthur Okonkwo does that mean he picked him over Iliev? Or was Iliev injured? Macey on loan, right?! Hein injured. James Hillson was the last keeper on the bench, whos from the u18s. I expect(hope) Emi gonna be our Number Two next season. But is one of the Youngsters ready to take the 3rd choice gk position in the first team next season(this is not a rhetorical question)?


Macey was at loan with Plymouth, played badly and was dropped. When the other keeper got injured, Macey came back in the team and has apparently been woeful. Also, he got injured today during Plymouth’s last match of the season, tried to put the ball out so he could sub off, a Scunthorpe player intercepted and scored, aka to Leeds/Villa last week, but this time Scunthorpe didn’t ‘let’ Plymouth score through fair play. Macey went off injured, Plymouth won anyway, but still got relegated. Macey is surely sold in the summer. In the same league, Bielek scored for Charlton and… Read more »


Anyone else watch spurs today? Even with the ref on their side most of the first half they ballsed things up

Tony Hall

It was a joy to behold haha


Wouldn’t it be something if Walcott scored the winner for Everton at the new Shite Hart Lane next week which allowed Arsenal and Chelsea to finish above Spurs into 3rd and 4th.


Lol really hope so. He’s already scored against United recently


I fully don’t expect Chelsea to win both their games against Watford and Leicester. Just like I don’t expect us to win both of ours, that said, I think we still have a very real chance for the top 4, win today and the last day will be very interesting

Kartik Iyer

I would love it if instead of simply buying players for next season…we give a 1 year shot (atleast) to our academy players. We could have nketiah as 3rd choice striker, Reiss Nelson and bukayo Saka as backup wingers, Emile Smith Rowe as backup no 10, willock as backup CM, give chambers, medley, mavropanos a shot, Martinez and other academy keepers as backup to Leno. We need to buy Excellent starting 11 instead of stocking up on squad numbers. That way maybe next year may not be the best…but atleast our first 11 would get better and we’d be that… Read more »

Dr. No

Nketiah is our 3rd choice striker, and there is a good chance that Nelson will be our backup winger (albeit I think he is way better than Iwobi). The problem is, that unless we buy wingers to compete with Iwobi and Mikhi (assuming neither of them will be sold in this summer) than we have rely on 2 players of mid-table quality. That especially applies to Emile Smith-Rowe. He could have been a natural successor of Ramsey (or maybe even to Ozil, depending on him being transformed into a box-to-box midfielder or an attacking central playmaker), but with with Ramsey… Read more »


I really like Freddie, i really do. After watching U23’s matches, i love to see his attacking philosophy.
But i think there will be a conflict with Emery about this promotion as he and Emery worship different attacking philosophy.
Freddie might be forced to leave eventually and i don’t want to see that happen.
Should he stay at U23 team for more seasons to gain more experience and one day we ‘ll see him as a head coach instead?

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