Arsenal youth defender Daniel Ballard spent the year playing under Freddie Ljungberg last season, and he compared the club’s new head coach to Pep Guardiola.
Ballard is currently out injured, having had to undergo knee surgery on loan at Swindon Town this season. Last campaign, however, he was playing for the Arsenal u23s and made himself a nailed-on starter under Freddie Ljungberg.
In fact, the only league games Ballard missed from the second game of the campaign until the end of the season were the three he was suspended for after picking up a red card in November.
Who better to give us their thoughts on Ljungberg’s management style, then? Ballard spoke to the Northern Ireland social media page in February about the Arsenal boss.
“He (Ljungberg) looks at the game in such a unique and different way,” Ballard said. “He often uses Pep Guardiola and the way he plays and tries to implement that with us.
“Sometimes it looks risky, and it is difficult, but when it pays off the football is really good and we’ve had some really good results under him.”
“I think especially at the start of the season [Ljungberg’s philosophy] was something completely new,” Ballard said in another interview with Arsenal. “We had to learn the new rotations and how we play, so it’s really starting to come together.
“You’ll see it at the end of games now that teams are getting more tired with the way that we play and pass the ball.
“Working under him every day we’re learning so much more and the game is becoming easier, so we’re all understanding it more now and it’s making us play a lot better.”
Ljungberg certainly had a strong season with the u23s. As Ballard points out, the coach’s philosophy was a bit risky and difficult to implement at first, but once they got it down they went unbeaten from the start of January until the end of the campaign.
The team ended up finishing second in the league, but more importantly, plenty of young players came on leaps and bounds over the course of the season.
Bukayo Saka and Joe Willock have only been able to make the step up to the first team this campaign as a result of the progress they made under Ljungberg.
Xavier Amaechi impressed and got a move to Hamburg, Tyreece John-Jules is on the verge of senior opportunities, whilst Eddie Nketiah, Ballard and Jordi Osei-Tutu got loan moves.
It’s hard to name a player who really struggled under Ljungberg, which is a good sign. We’ll see if he can transfer that to the senior side.