Liverpool assistant coach Pep Lijnders has revealed that Mikel Arteta tried to lure him away from Anfield when he first took over as head coach at Arsenal.
Needing to build a backroom team at short notice in December 2019, the Spaniard tried to tap up the Dutchman having been impressed by his work at Anfield. The two had initially met in 2017 while studying for their UEFA Pro Licence with the Welsh FA.
Recalling the approach in his new book ‘Intensity’, Lijnders said: “Mikel Arteta had asked me to be his assistant manager when he was preparing for his new step into management.
“We were together years earlier on the Pro Licence course, [though] his request came out of nothing. Mikel had said he felt: ‘There was just a difference playing Liverpool before and after you came in.’
“This was the biggest compliment I ever got from somebody, I think, but I politely said no to him.”
Lijnders, currently in his second stint with Liverpool having initially joined during Brendan Rodgers’ tenure, has been integral to the Reds’ recent success both on the domestic front and in Europe.
While Lijnders turned down a move, another of the Dragon Park cohort from 2017 did accept a role under Arteta. Freddie Ljungberg, already at Arsenal as an assistant to Unai Emery and later, when the Spaniard was sacked, interim head coach, was integrated for a year alongside new faces Steve Round and Albert Stuivenberg.
The latter pair have been a steady presence in the dugout at Emirates Stadium ever since.
Arteta’s other assistants include Miguel Molina and Carlos Cuesta, keeper coach Inaki Cana Pavon and set piece maestro Nicolas Jover who replaced Andreas Georgson this time last year.
It’s unclear at this point if anyone will replace Shad Forsythe who recently left his position as head of performance after eight years at the club.
The Gunners are also without a head of performance at the Academy after Tony Strudwick, who replaced Des Ran in 2021, left to join West Brom as their Director of Medical Services.
UPDATE – in a great post-US tour article for The Athletic, @Gunnerblog reveals that Tom Allen, previously ‘lead sports scientist’, has been handed the new title ‘head of sports science’ and is effectively Forsythe’s replacement.