Arsenal have confirmed the departure of Unai Emery after just 18 months at the Emirates.
The Spaniard replaced Arsene Wenger in the summer of 2018 with the target of getting Arsenal back in the Champions League but failed to do so in his first season. Arsenal finished fifth in the Premier League and also lost the Europa League final to Chelsea, condemning them to a third consecutive season in Europe’s second-tier competition.
A 2-1 home defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt proved to be the final straw for the Arsenal board, with the Gunners yet to confirm their spot in the last-32 of the Europa League.
Unai Emery sacked: Five things to know…
- Unai Emery replaced Arsene Wenger in the summer of 2018.
- In his first season, the Gunners finished fifth and reached the final of the Europa League.
- Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt proved the final straw for the Arsenal board.
- The Gunners are winless in their past seven games across all competitions.
- Emery won 55.1% (43) of his 78 games in charge of Arsenal.
On Friday morning Arsenal released a statement, saying: “We announce today that the decision has been taken to part company with our head coach Unai Emery and his coaching team.
“Speaking on behalf of the Arsenal board and our owners Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, Josh Kroenke said: ‘Our most sincere thanks go to Unai and his colleagues who were unrelenting in their efforts to get the club back to competing at the level we all expect and demand. We wish Unai and his team nothing but future success.’
“The decision has been taken due to results and performances not being at the level required.”
Unai Emery has the lowest win rate of any Arsenal manager in the 21st Century. 😉 https://t.co/VEwKKWidv1
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 29, 2019
Arsenal wasted little time in naming Emery’s replacement, appointing former Gunners midfielder Freddie Ljungberg as interim head coach while they search for a permanent replacement.
But what do we know about Ljungberg, the coach?
A fulfilling Arsenal career
We might as well start with Ljungberg’s Arsenal connection, having spent nine years with the Gunners as a player.
Ljungberg made the switch to north London in 1998, joining from boyhood club Halmstad for £3m. The Swedish midfielder wasted little time in making his mark on English football, scoring on debut against Manchester United in a 3-0 win for Arsenal. However, that would be one just of 23 appearances in 1998/99.
Freddie Ljungberg takes over as interim Arsenal manager. Here’s a delightful news clip of his debut match for the club in 1998. pic.twitter.com/tKCBySkZem
— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) November 29, 2019
As the years went on, Ljungberg became increasingly important to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, capable of playing on either side of the midfield and centrally when required. Ljungberg won his first major trophies with Arsenal in the 2001/02 season as the Gunners completed the FA Cup and Premier League double.
Freddie Ljungberg, Arsenal's interim manager. pic.twitter.com/kMAvZ9e8wA
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 29, 2019
The Swede scored Arsenal’s second goal in their 2-0 FA Cup final win over Chelsea, picking the ball up inside his area before running at the defence and beating Carlo Cudicini from the edge of the area.
Ljungberg went on to win another two FA Cups either side of being an integral part of the Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ side that won the 2003/04 Premier League without losing a game. The Swedish midfielder played 30 of Arsenal’s 38 league games that season, starting 27 times.
Injury problems hampered the later stages of Ljungberg’s Arsenal career though he would still play 326 times in total for the Gunners, including 90 minutes in the 2006 Champions League final defeat to Barcelona.
Five clubs you (probably) forgot Freddie Ljungberg played for
We’ve already mentioned Halmstad. Everybody knows Arsenal and most may remember his MLS stint with Seattle Sounders. But those are not the only clubs Ljungberg represented during his playing career, and some you may have forgotten about.
West Ham United
Ljungberg will be forever remembered as an Arsenal legend when it comes to the Premier League, but only the most ardent fans will also be able to recall his spell with West Ham.
Joining from Arsenal in 2007 on a four-year deal, Ljungberg spent just one season in east London, playing 28 matches for the Hammers across all competitions.
Seattle Sounders weren’t the only MLS team Ljungberg represented as he was traded to Chicago Fire in July 2010. However, the Swedish midfielder played just 15 times for The Fire, scoring twice.
From Chicago to Glasgow, Ljungberg spent six months with Scottish Premier League side Celtic, joining in December 2010 and leaving at the end of that campaign.
In that time, Ljungberg managed just eight appearances across all competitions and started only two of those.
A spell in Japan followed for Ljungberg with Shimizu S-Pulse but it would be another brief stint, as the midfielder played 11 times between September 2011 and February 2012.
After two years out of the game, Ljungberg returned to football with Mumbai City FC to promote the launch of the Indian Super Legaue. However, he played just four games before consistent injury problems eventually saw him leave the club – his last involvement as a player.
Another two years out of the limelight ended when Ljungberg was named coach of Arsenal’s under-15s team in January 2016.
— Freddie Ljungberg (@freddie) January 7, 2016
At the same time, Ljungberg was working towards getting his coaching badges, with Wenger saying: “He wants to make his licence. They have to take on a youth team and we are happy to give him that.”
He would spend just over a year in charge of the under-15s before taking his first step into men’s senior football with Wolfsburg as assistant to Andries Jonker.
But Ljungberg spent just 19 games in Germany before leaving alongside Jonker, with the duo unable to get going at Wolfsburg.
Ljungberg returned to Arsenal in 2018, this time taking charge of the developmental squad, which is the last level below the first team. Overseeing action for the entirety of the 2018/19 campaign, Ljungberg had a decent finish in the Premier League 2, leading Arsenal to 37 points from 22 games and a second-placed finish.
A man hailed for his footballing intelligence as a player, it appears Ljungberg has carried that style into management. Former Arsenal defender Cohen Bramall, who played under Ljungberg for the developmental squad, praised the Swede as one of the best coaches he’s worked under.
“I’ve worked with Arsene Wenger, I’ve worked with Unai Emery”, he told The Athletic.
“I’ve worked with big coaches and, for me, Arsene and Freddie are the best ones that I’ve had.
“He worked with me a lot on my body shape, my first touch,” Bramall explains.
“Going forward, he wanted me to shoot more. He would take the time to show me techniques: how to shoot properly using the outside of your foot, for example.
“With crosses, he showed me you don’t always have to whip it. How to pick someone out. It was always constructive criticism.”
He was then promoted to the first-team coaching staff upon Emery’s arrival in the summer of 2019, where he continued to grow as a coach, especially helping the young players. Whether he can carry on developing his man-management style as interim head coach remains to be seen, but it will undoubtedly be a positive for Arsenal fans.
However, any Arsenal fans thinking about Ljungberg as a potential long-term option may be left disappointed.
According to the Mirror, the Swede may only be allowed to manage until the end of February before being forced to step down.
This is due to his lack of a Uefa Pro Licence, which is a requirement for anyone who wishes to manage a football club in the top tier of any European league system for more than 12 weeks.