Another summer of reshuffling at the Arsenal training ground with U23’s coach Freddie Ljungberg set to make the move to Unai Emery’s coaching staff ahead of the 2019/20 season. The move will see Steve Bould leave his position as assistant first-team coach after 7 seasons and return to the academy, where he’d previously won an FA Youth Cup in 2009 alongside stars Jack Wilshere and Francis Coquelin.
What changes could we see at Arsenal?
Ljungberg will overlook the transition of players going from the academy to the first team. The benefit is that for players like Joe Willock, Bukayo Saka and Zechariah Medley is that they feel comfortable to play their own game and build the early connection with the coaching staff, which can be a daunting prospect early on.
Although there were no titles won for the Arsenal U23’s last season the progress was substantial with a new style of play being implemented after the departure of Steve Gatting at the end of 2018. Per Mertesacker, head of academy, introduced the players to the Checkatrade Trophy enabling the youth to gather experience against lower league opposition at tough away grounds like Fratton Park. This would help to make the transition to first team football a smoother transition and give an idea to the physical requirements to make it to the top level.
Who has benefited from Ljungberg’s coaching the most?
Joe Willock is a name that stands out to me as someone who found their true style of play under Freddie. The season before he was used in a deeper role for the academy and first team, this created a feeling amongst most fans that he would struggle to make it and would be shipped out on loan. However, there was a switch in the summer that saw him being pushed further up the pitch and the numbers speak for themselves with the youngster moving into double figures in goals and assists. The movement into attacking positions was something he brought into games in the Europa League, Carabao Cup and FA Cup that impressed Unai Emery enough to give him an appearance in the Europa League Final.
The introduction of Ljungberg meant there was a stronger attacking philosophy and the threat of wingers was highlighted as he developed Xavier Amaechi and Bukayo Saka into hot European prospects with the former attracting many clubs from the Bundesliga.
There’s a lot of hope amongst the Arsenal fan base that players like Alex Iwobi, Reiss Nelson and Henrikh Mkhitaryan can prove to be useful in the final third of the pitch with their output and that can be supported in the upcoming seasons by the Swede.