Football: Unai Emery sacking puts combative Freddie Ljungberg back in Arsenal spotlight

Former Arsenal midfielder Freddie Ljungberg is taking over on an interim basis at the club. PHOTO: AP

STOCKHOLM (REUTERS) - Unai Emery's sacking as Arsenal manager means Freddie Ljungberg takes over on an interim basis at the club where he made his name and the former midfielder will be relishing the chance to show fans what he can do.

Brought to the club from Halmstad in 1998, Ljungberg went on to score 46 goals in 216 games for the Gunners, displaying his combative style as well as several punk-inspired hairstyles in that time.

He was an immediate hit with the Highbury fans, scoring on his debut against Manchester United in a 3-0 win, but for all his goals, it was his effort and intelligence that stood out most during his time as a player.

Deployed across the midfield and occasionally as a second striker, he was blessed with neither a powerful shot nor great height, but Ljungberg made up for these shortcomings with great positioning and timing.

Despite being only 1.75m tall, he was an excellent header of the ball, and his tireless, unselfish running was a key feature of Arsenal's title-winning sides in 2002, in which he won the Premier League Player of the Season award, and 2004.

His small stature did not stop him sticking up for himself either, and he ended up in a fight with national team defender Olof Mellberg, then at Aston Villa, during a Sweden training session ahead of the 2002 World Cup.

He left Arsenal in 2007 and never really reached those heights again as a player, representing West Ham United, Seattle Sounders and Chicago Fire, Scottish giants Celtic as well as clubs in Japan and India.

Appointed as an ambassador for Arsenal in 2013, the 42-year-old returned as a coach in 2016, taking over their Under-15 side. He left after less than a year, joining Bundesliga side Vfl Wolfsburg for a short stint as assistant to Andries Jonker.

In June 2018 he returned once more to the club in his heart, this time as U-23 manager, and he was appointed assistant manager to Emery a year later.

In replacing his mentor, Ljungberg has once again shown his ability to be in the right place at the right time at Arsenal. He will have his first chance to show fans what he can do as head coach when they take on Norwich City in the league on Sunday (Dec 1).

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