Former Gunners player and Invincibles squad member Freddie Ljungberg was the chosen man to restore the wounds of the past 18 months under the tutelage of former boss Unai Emery.
Ljungberg’s rise to the role was somewhat of a fairy tale as he was only the U23s coach of the club last season.
Compared to the likes of Allegri, Nuno Santo, Eddie Howe, Pochettino and a whole host of others who have been linked to the Arsenal role in recent weeks, Ljungberg’s humble rap-sheet of having begun his coaching career with the club’s under-15s and then – via a short spell as assistant manager at Wolfsburg – their under-23s meant he had no “real” experience for the Arsenal head coach role.
His first statement after his appointment signified he was eager to bring happy moments back to the club and of course that translates to winning games and doing so fast.
However long I oversee @Arsenal for I will give everything I have to put smiles on faces again. We have a busy few weeks ahead and the team needs your support. Let’s get to work! pic.twitter.com/WdekcA4h5G
— Freddie Ljungberg (@freddie) November 29, 2019
Prior to his appointment, the Gunners have been linked to just about any available manager on the market and there were doubts as to what Ljungberg was going to bring to the table.
Looking back at the whole situation, It’s easy to say the thought of phasing Emery out excited many fans that they were so warmed up to the notion that “anybody else” would do better.
After all, there were reasons to indeed be optimistic for Ljungberg’s interim appointment. Arsenal have seen a lot of younger players rise through the ranks this season and hence it was welcoming to the fact that Ljungberg was a coach ready to invest well in youth.
Since his promotion to the first-team set-up in the summer from his role within the academy as under-23s boss, Ljungberg has also become a hugely popular figure with the senior players who have been impressed with his coaching ability.
The relationships Ljungberg has with the younger players in the squad need little explanation. He was their coach last season for the U23s and many would run through a brick wall for him.
Talk to players such as Joe Willock or Bukayo Saka and their eyes light up at the mention of his name.
Willock flourished under the two-time Premier League winner last season while playing for the U23s. It was a breakthrough campaign for the academy product who had been struggling to live up to his potential prior to working with Ljungberg.
“Freddie is not only a legend, he’s an unbelievable manager and coach,” said the 20-year-old, who has scored four goals in 17 appearances for the senior side this season.
“He’s a mentor for me, he showed me a lot behind the scenes that people don’t really know about.
“He’s improved my whole overall game. If I’m being specific, getting in the pockets when I’m playing No.10 and attacking at No.8.
In general, there was a certain buzz about a well-respected ex-Gunner leading the side and hoping he would fix the many mistakes that have plagued the Gunners for the past few seasons.
However, It would be wise for Gunners as well as the Arsenal hierarchy to lower their expectations from Ljungberg. At least, his first game against Norwich showed the fact that the problem of the past 18 months would not magically fade away over the next few weeks.
Ljungberg’s first game in charge against Norwich simply showed he was no miracle man or better still the fact that too much should not be expected of him.
Firstly, for someone who has been around the club for more than a year, he should have had his own reservations about the whole situation to an extent.
Coming in to make the same mistakes of a rash lineup and debatable substitutions was rather ironic to imagine.
Not to forget the fact that the right coach in theory with the wrong set of players is still back to square one. A burning thought properly highlighted by the words of pundits Sutton and Andy Townsend.
“Did you expect them to be much different?” said Sutton. “It has been the same for the last decade and it’s still the same problem.
“They need to change the model, the recruitment. Over the summer they brought in [winger] Nicolas Pepe [for £72m] but the issues were at the back.”
Former Aston Villa and Chelsea midfielder Andy Townsend agreed with Sutton and said:
“I don’t think it’s the right time for Freddie to take over, not the right time for someone who is inexperienced at this level.
“Arsenal need someone to come in and teach them about defending.
“Calum Chambers has been around long enough to see if there’s been an improvement but there hasn’t been. I don’t think he’s good enough to be an Arsenal regular.
“Sokratis is nowhere near good enough. I don’t think he would get into any Premier League side.”
Also, being an Arsenal legend means he would be careful not to tarnish his image by trying to please everyone and bringing a whole sense of balance to the squad.
Emery froze out some players which many disagreed with and perhaps that was why Mustafi got his first start of the season in Ljungberg’s first game in charge. Question is, should Mustafi be starting for a top-four side? We know the answer to that.
What Arsenal do need is someone with no emotions, sympathy or conscience towards the whole scenario and would take the role as strictly business to be done.
How long the Swede will be in charge is not yet clear. It could be a matter of weeks or it could be for the season. That is something the Gunners hierarchy will need to sort out but for now, too much should not be expected of Ljungberg – not any time soon.