Arsenal confirm Freddie Ljungberg has been appointed head coach of the u23 side. The 41-year-old was previously assistant manager at Vfl Wolfsburg, working alongside Andries Jonker, the former Arsenal academy manager.
His appointment comes just days after Marcel Lucassen joined as Head of Coach and Player development and Lee Herron arrived as Head of Academy Football Operations.
Per Mertesacker is currently the Head of Academy and will work with Lucassen, Herron and now Ljungberg who will develop players on the fringes of the Arsenal first-team.
“I’m delighted to be returning to the club,” he said. “Arsenal has always been a special place for me and I’m really excited at this opportunity to work with our under-23 team.
“I look forward to working with the talented young players we have at the club. I know many of them well and will work hard to help them continue developing and become the best players and people they can be.”
Ljungberg is an Arsenal legend, having originally joined the club from Swedish side Halmstad in 1998 and going on to make over 300 appearances in all competitions. The midfielder won three FA Cups and two Premier League titles during his nine years at Arsenal.
After leaving the Gunners 2007, he played for West Ham United, Seattle Sounders (MLS), Chicago Fire (MLS), Celtic (Scotland), Shimizu S-Pulse (Japan) and Mumbai City (India). Ljungberg hung up his boots in 2014 and was already an Arsenal ambassador at the time.
He joined the academy in 2016, taking charge of the u15s, before he was headhunted by Wolfsburg. The ex-Swedish international has returned to Arsenal with more coaching experience and is one of many former players now at the club – Jens Lehmann (first-team coach), Per Mertesacker (Head of Academy).
Mertesacker paid tribute to Ljungberg, expressing his delight to see him back at Arsenal and tipping him for great things in years to come.
“It’s great to have Freddie back at the club. He brings great footballing experience and the highest possible levels of enthusiasm, energy and encouragement for our young professionals,” he said.
“He understands the club’s values and how important it is to give young players the opportunity to grow and develop. When Freddie left for Wolfsburg it was with the club’s blessing and with a return to Arsenal some day in mind.
“Everyone knows Freddie loves the club and we look forward to him developing his career with us.”
It’s clear the Gunners are heavily focused on developing more young talent to eventually move up into the first-team and they are building a strong foundation of personnel to aid in the transition.
Ljungberg is believed to already know a lot of the players in the u23s and will have invaluable advice for the fringe stars given he become an Arsenal legend from relative obscurity.
As for the team he’ll manage, the 41-year-old will have Joshua Dasilva, Ben Sheaf, Charlie Gilmour, Gedion Zelalem, Joe Willock, Vlad Dragomir, Reiss Nelson, Stephy Mavididi and Eddie Nketiah among others.
The side recently won the u23 Premier League Division One title, finishing the season with 42 points from 22 games, in a league containing Liverpool, Manchester City, Everton, Chelsea and Manchester United. Ljungberg is clearly inheriting a strong set-up.