On 23 October 1994, Freddie Ljungberg made his debut for Halmstads – the start of his senior footballing career.
In all, he played 79 games for the team before moving to Arsenal in 1998. As such he was one of Mr Wenger’s early appointments, and the story quickly circulated that the manager signed Freddie without having seen him play.
Given the number of matches the manager was reported as watching, it seems very unlikely indeed, but these were the days when the media was still finding it very hard to accept the notion that English clubs could be successful in using foreign players or foreign managers. Indeed there was doubt expressed in the media that the fans would accept “this influx of foreigners”. But as it turned out, with Freddie there was never any doubt. His enthusiasm was always there for everyone to see. Changing the colour of his hair just endeared him to all of us even more.
Having played 79 games for Halmstad Freddie made 216 appearances for Arsenal before having a final season in English football as a player with West Ham, by then having won two League titles and three FA Cup winners’ medals.
In June 2018, it had been reported that Freddie would return to the club as the under-23 coach – and certainly, those of us who saw him at under-23 games would all testify that he really did enjoy his time with the younger players. Watching him before the game he was all smiles, and always with a moment to have his picture taken with the fans who turned up to watch the team.
And then on 5 June 2019, Freddie was promoted to Arsenal’s first-team coaching squad undoubtedly as a reward for his work with the under 23s. Although this move took much of the media by surprise, that was generally because they tended not to look at matters European, but had they done they might have noted that having been Arsenal’s under 15s manager for a year, Freddie had become assistant manager of Wolfsburg before joining the under 23s. He already had experience.
But even then, no one expected him to become the “interim head coach” as he was called within five months, yet that is what happened on 29 November when Unai Emery was dismissed.
Freddie himself said he was working “on a game-by-game basis” and he must have realised he had no chance of keeping the job as the results failed to go his way. He achieved just one win (beating West Ham) and beyond that he oversaw three draws and two defeats before Mikel Arteta was appointed – the man it seems Arsenal had wanted all along.
On 22 August 2020 it was announced that Freddie Ljungberg was leaving Arsenal to pursue his career somewhere else.
Quite where we still don’t know, but given that he has worked consistently in management at different levels since retiring as a player, it is likely it could be in football. And it surely is not impossible that we might one day see him back working for Arsenal.
- Henry Norris at the Arsenal: There is a full index to the series here.
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