Bukayo Saka did not turn out very well in 1-2 against Eintracht Frankfurt, the last match of Unai Emery as Arsenal coach. He nevertheless played a key role in the Spanish retiring.
In mid-September, after the Gunners had just won 3-0 in Frankfurt, the 19-year-old goalscorer had talked about pure youthful flooding, which until then had only been rumored: Some Arsenal players do not understand what they have with a strong Spanish accent speaks Emery would actually say and would rather listen to assistant coach Freddie Ljungberg.
"It helps a lot when Freddie is in the gym," Saka said. "Sometimes when the coach tries to communicate, I don't understand what he means; Freddie speaks English better. He has a big role in my development." Since this surprisingly clear admission, Emery's communication problems have become a public topic. The last fans have moved away from him in the cabin and the club. After seven games without a win, Arsenal fans were relieved to see the 48-year-old resign Friday morning. So far, Ljungberg (42) is training the team.
You will not have been totally surprised by these developments in the club board. North Londoners had not only promoted the club icon from youth to assistant coach this summer to ensure better collaboration between the first eleven and A youths. Like Hansi Flick in FC Bayern, from the start it was meant as a possible intermediate solution so that Emery, who started the season without much support, could be replaced at short notice.
An "unbeatable" coach
Ljungberg, a member of the Invincibles team, who won the championship undefeated under Arsène Wenger in 2004, had returned to the shooters after his retirement in 2016 to train for U15. The young Academy Director at the time, Andries Jonker, took Ljungberg to VfL Wolfsburg less than a year later as number two.
However, the engagement in Volkswagenstadt lasted only six months. Ljungberg returned to Arsenal and took over the U23. The Swede made a breakthrough for a quartet of players from this very talented class. With his help, Emile Rowe-Smith, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah (currently on loan to Leeds Utd.) And Saka got the connection to professional football. An official at Arsenal says Freddie is not someone who speaks loudly: "But he speaks to things clearly and provides a line that you can use to orient yourself." Last year, his youths played exactly the neat combination football that supporters of Emery's confused squad had wanted.
People who are close to Ljungberg, who always seem relaxed, describe him as an extremely ambitious coach who did not just engage with the youth players just to pass the time. He had no financial need to be on the field, he was aiming for a serious career, they say. One small indication of this in the pre-season was his willingness to talk to reporters in detail before and after matches. This is unusual in the U23 area of the island.
As a darling of the masses, Ljungberg arouses hope for more attractive performances and for a better climate in the stadium. Many spectators had come earlier to show their frustration. Thousands stayed away. However, there is still internal doubt as to whether the former winger already has what it takes to lead the completely insecure group into the Champions League places. Ljungberg must prove that not only his former U23 players follow him on the team. Arsenal do not want to repeat Manchester United's "Ole-Gunnar Solskajer error", which of late installed a popular ex-star as head coach for sentimental reasons. Ljungberg's job should be limited to detoxifying the club's climate for the time being – until an experienced football teacher can take over.