This week was the 20th anniversary of the day Freddie Ljungberg signed for Arsenal.
Twenty years ago, a fresh-faced Swede, off the back of a stellar performance for Sweden versus England, strode into the Champions of England, and proceeded to endear himself to the fans of the club through his football, his goals, and his swagger.
Ljungberg was a deceptively skillful footballer. The Swede played for nine years as an Arsenal player, and while his trademark lightning-quick runs faded with age, his timing never did.
You see, that was his weapon and his alone. Not many midfielders have mastered this, but Freddie harnessed the ability to dart into the box and make the most of some truly exceptional passes from none other than Dennis Bergkamp. The Iceman was the perfect foil for the Swede’s ninja-like transitions from midfield into the danger zone, and he found him almost every time.
Factor in the fact the attack at the time had such talents as Robert Pires and Thierry Henry, and it is no surprise that Freddie filled his boots.
His red hair obviously helped strengthen the bond between player and fans. We all love a statement maker. When that statement maker is on fire on the pitch too? That’s a bona fide fan favourite right there.
Freddie won two league titles in his nine years at Arsenal, and his run of goals during the tail end of the 2001-02 season was the catalyst for the title win, with United breathing down our necks. Ljungberg was on fire during April and May, and the Bergkamp-Freddie link bordered on telepathy.
He went on to become a true legend of the club, and deservingly so. The number 8 not only spent nearly a decade at the club, he played through the pain on numerous occasions, scored decisive goals and gave all he had on the pitch.
Now we have the benefit of Ljungberg coaching our Under-23 side. A club must keep their icons as close as possible, so one of our brightest lights training the next generation of Arsenal player keeps at least some of The Arsenal Way within the club.
Traditions are passed down, and no doubt Ljungberg will be keen for his young charges to realise what an honour it is to represent Arsenal.
Twenty years ago, he walked through the doors at London Colney as a wide-eyed young man and left having won championships. Hopefully some of his glory and dedication will rub off on them.