Freddie Ljungberg has opened up on his ‘difficult’ spell as Arsenal interim boss last season and why he decided to leave the club during the summer.
Ljungberg was appointed as Arsenal manager on an interim basis last season following the sacking of Unai Emery, though was unable to revive the club’s fortunes during his short stint in charge, winning just one of six fixtures in all competitions.
The former Arsenal midfielder had been a valued member of the Gunners’ coaching team for several years having coached at various age groups, but has opened up on his ‘turbulent’ spell in charge of the senior side who he feels had ‘lost a connection’ with the club’s fans.
“It was very turbulent,” he told the Telegraph. “I felt we had probably lost a connection with the fans and the players were not particularly happy in any shape or form. It’s just how it was, so it was difficult.
“But when I got asked it was a bit like ‘it’s Arsenal, I’ve been here for 20 years’. It wasn’t about if it was the right time or if I should or shouldn’t do it, it was just like they need help and that’s my, not duty, but that’s my loyalty to do it. It felt like there were a lot of things to try to fix, but it was a great experience.
“I didn’t think about the job becoming permanent because the club were very clear with me and said ‘we’ll look for a replacement while you are working’. That was in the first meeting. I asked if I could get an assistant who was out of a job to help me and they said ‘no’, so then I kind of knew it was not maybe for the long-term.”
Ljungberg returned to his coaching role last season following the appointment of Mikel Arteta, though decided to leave the north London side during the summer in search of a new venture.
The Swede admits it was a ‘difficult and emotional’ decision to leave Arsenal after two decades with the club as player and coach, though says he is now ‘ready’ to move into a managerial role after honing his coaching credentials at the Emirates.
“It was very difficult and emotional because I had been at Arsenal for 20 years,” he added. “It could have been an easy life just to be at Arsenal, but I felt like I needed to take that decision and stand on my own two feet.
“When I started to be a coach, I had a conversation with Arsene Wenger and he said ‘don’t cheat your way forwards’. Sometimes, as players, we can jump ahead a little bit but that’s why I did the U15s, the U16s, U19s, U23s and then the first team because that was my plan.
“I felt, after we won the FA Cup, I had done those years and gained the knowledge and understanding that felt like I was ready. Now it’s important that I find somewhere where it fits, where it’s correct. Whether it’s in England or whatever doesn’t matter so much to me as long as it fits. That’s my dream at least.”