Arsenal News

Live Arsenal News

Arsenal latest news

Arsenal News & Transfers
As featured on NewsNow: Arsenal newsArsenal News 24/7

Arsenal News, Only Arsenal, Blogs, Transfer News


July 2021

Freddie Ljungberg interview: insights, errors and memories of being sent off


Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football.  Have your name in the book as an official sponsor.  Updated information here

The day when Fulham tried to take over Arsenal – the full story in “Making the Arsenal”

We’re on Twitter @UntoldArsenal


In this interview given just before the game with Tottenham H Freddie spoke at the launch of the Barclays Global Fans Survey – a survey by Barclays to find out the views of Barclays Premier League fans around the world.  The interview appeared in the New Paper, Singapore.  It is transcribed by Guo Sheng, to whom many thanks.  There is a brief commentary at the end.

Q: You were part of the great Arsenal team not so long ago. How does it feel to see the Gunners struggling that badly at the moment?

Freddie: I’m a great fan of Arsenal. So, to see the huge gap at the top of the table, points-wise, makes me very sad.

Q: Former Arsenal player David O’Leary recently said that the Gunners are let down by the senior players. Do you agree?

Freddie: I wouldn’t say that.

There are many questions that need to be asked, obviously. They need to look at what had gone wrong along the way. They haven’t won anything for seven years, and that’s a long time for Arsenal.  It’s too easy to just blame the senior players. There’s a big discussion about Arsenal now. I can only compare the Arsenal now with the Arsenal of my time. We used to buy players from the top every season. Gilberto, the midfielder, came as a World Cup winner with Brazil. Likewise, Sylvain Wiltord, a European Championship winner with France. Getting these top players made us better. Their approach is different now.

They are turning to the young players and hoping to groom them into something great. In some way, that’s a good thing. But they haven’t won anything for years. Maybe they can go back to investing on big players. The young players can lean on a big player like Patrick Vieira. That way, they can get better too.

Q: How important is it for Arsenal to hold on to Robin van Persie in light of the circumstances?

Watch Arsenal Live Streams With

Freddie: Van Persie is an amazing player. He scores plenty of goals, so of course he is an important player. But when you have players in different positions who can score, it makes it harder for the opponents to defend against. I’m sure any coach would prefer this than a single prolific goalscorer. Arsenal’s problem is that they don’t have players from other positions who can score the goals for them. It’s not healthy that van Persie scores such a big percentage of Arsenal’s goals.

Q: How confident are you of them finishing in the top four this season?

Freddie: I hope they do. It looks uncertain at the moment though. In the past, finishing among the top four is guaranteed. So obviously, they are going through tough times. I just hope they can make it.

Q: Do you think the power in London has shifted from Arsenal and Chelsea to Tottenham Hotspur?

Freddie: Arsenal and Chelsea are struggling. Spurs are obviously doing very well and many people are saying that they are the new force in London. We’ll see. But Arsenal are too big a club to be happy with this. Two days after I joined Arsenal, Pat Rice the assistant manager, said something to me. He told me that Arsenal must win something every year. This is how big the club are. I hope things will change soon, and Arsenal can regain their position as the top club in London.

Q: Do you get the feeling that Spurs might actually be the favourites on Arsenal’s ground for the first time in many years when they play Arsenal today?

Freddie: I hope not, not at the Emirates Stadium. But Spurs are 10 points ahead of Arsenal in the Barclays Premier League, and that’s a lot of points. At least the players now have an opportunity to close the gap. And they are also fighting for the bragging rights.

Q: Do you agree with the view that van Persie is the only Arsenal player good enough to appear in Spurs’ starting 11?

Freddie: No, I don’t agree with that. Arsenal still has many good players. As a team, they have to stick together. Don’t forget that they also went through a lot of injuries this season. I won’t tell you who I think are good enough to go into Spurs’ starting 11 because I don’t like to talk about specific players.

Q: And so you think Arsene Wenger is still the right man to lead Arsenal?

Freddie: He has done some amazing things for the club. They are where they are now because of the things he has done for them, both on and off the field. But we still need to ask the same question of why they haven’t won anything for seven years.

When David Dein left the club, it was worrying. Dein was the connection between Wenger and the board. After he left, Arsenal have not been competitive since. I think it is one of the reasons for Arsenal’s decline. Dein pushed a lot of things for Wenger. He pushed for spending money in the transfer market. Arsenal bought more players back then.

Q: How do you think today’s game will go?

Freddie: Three-One to Arsenal. The Gunners have been through a tough couple of weeks, and this is a chance for them to get back on solid ground. Matches against Spurs are always massive. Arsenal will want to send out a message in this game.

Q: Any memorable incident from the North London Derby?

Freddie: I scored in a few derbies during my time there. Unfortunately, the one incident that sticks in the head is a sending-off, which remains my only red card in my career. It was at White Hart Lane in 1999.

The referee made a meal out of it. It was on the end of a bad tackle, but I wanted to get on with the game, so I pushed a player to get the ball back. Then all of a sudden, a spectator threw a coin towards the pitch and it hit David Ginola’s head. The wound started to bleed.

The players from both sides then started to surround one another. In the chaos, I was sent off. The referee told one of my teammates that I head-butted Ginola, but I wasn’t even close to him.

Q: We heard you were pretty good with your hands as well, and was called up to the Sweden handball national team as a teenager. Was it a tough choice to pick football over handball in the end?

Freddie: That was correct. Handball is a huge sport from where I came from in Halmstad, and that was the time when Sweden were doing well in the Olympics. When I was 15, my football coach asked me to make a decision. I love football more than handball, so it wasn’t really that hard to decide.

Q: You have just left Japanese side Shimizu S-Pulse. How was the experience?

Freddie: I’m a big sushi fan. You can’t get better sushi than in Japan. I had a great time there. I was supposed to stay for another year but because the club cut their budget, I had to go. I love the country and its amazing culture. The respect they show for one another is fantastic. Usually a player would get angry at being substituted in a game. In Japan, when a player is replaced, he bows to the fans at all sides of the stadium, as well as the manager.

Q: Any plans to return to the Barclays Premier League?

Freddie: Unfortunately, I will have to wait for the next transfer window to open before I can play. There have been many interested clubs. I would love to play in the League again.


Commentary by Tony Attwood, chair of the AISA Arsenal History Society.

Quite clearly the contentious issue here (given the absence of any revelations about throwing pizzas) is Freddie’s thought that proven winners were purchased in the old days, but now it is all down to kids.

Because Freddie played for the club we have to show him deep respect but I believe he is a little mistaken in his thoughts on this point.

If we look at the players Arsene Wenger introduced in the earlier part of his career we see quite a mix.  Freddie cites Patrick Vieira as a purchase.  Patrick was a young player who did not yet have an international pedigree – indeed when purchased for £3m he was languishing in the reserves at Milan doing nothing in particular and on offer for a knock down price.  Likewise one could add that when Thierry Henry came he was hardly a household name – you would probably only have known him as an under 18 international who had not made it.  Freddie himself, although an international (working from memory I recall him playing for Sweden against England just before coming to Arsenal), was hardly an international star.

And indeed if we go back to Gilberto, yes he was with Brazil, but we got him for £2m.  Even allowing for inflation, that suggests he was not thought of as a world-wide established star who could adapt to English football.

Who else was Mr Wenger bringing in at this time?   Nik Anelka – unknown 18 year old who couldn’t get into the PSG team.  Highly spoken of, but with doubts about his personality.  £250,000 compensation.  Remi Garde on a free.  Petit – a defender who had never played midfield before Mr Wenger transformed him.

Where Freddie is right is with Pires and Wiltord – both established players – although Wiltord left at the end of his contract, and we must remember Pires didn’t really look at all right in his first year until Mr Wenger changed his style of play to allow him to link with Henry.  Where his memory fails is with David Dein’s pursuit of Reyes and the high fee paid for him.  It wasn’t always “pay top, buy the best” – sometimes it failed too.

So my point is that many of the players bought in this era were not as established as we might think – they went on to be established later.  And some who were established never made it.  So I would make the point that there were errors and cock-ups too.  Boa Morte certainly never made it.  Nor did Chris Wreh (who was once preferred in a cup final to Ian Wright).  Youngsters were brought in – Aliadiere who never made it, and Clichy, playing in semi-pro football in France, who did.  Some stepped up from the youth team – Cole is the obvious example of a fast track youngster.  Some were bought in as footsoliders like Grimandi – much derided for his part in the 6-1 defeat at Old Trafford, and some took a while to arrive – like Edu whose passport was apparently a fake, which resulted on him being put on a plane back.  Some were disasters – like Stepanovs.  Some were amazing deals – I don’t have to list them, as they became legends.

But we also had, in for example Edu and Wiltord, players who refused to re-sign for us.

My point is that whereas today each failed player, each player who will not re-sign, is seen as a sign of Mr Wenger’s inability to cope, in those days, such matters were accepted as being part and parcel of football.   In today’s world we buy Arshavin and it doesn’t work – we forget the buying of Reyes – and it not working.  Where we used to shrug, now there is endless mindless abuse.

What is different is not, as Freddie says, that then we bought internationals and now we buy kids, but rather two quite different things.  First, at the start, expectations were low.  We had had the awful, awful, Graham departure year, followed by the awful Rioch year.  And Wenger was unknown.

Second, in those early days, there was no transfer doping – a system I have described before, in which every Arsenal target is instantly offered to Man City, PSG and Chelsea at double the price.  Mr Wenger could stroll around the footballing world and pick players of his choice, many of whom were simply there and available, with no other club in contention.

Remember, in those first days Adams said of Wenger, “What does he know of English football?”  So if Mr Wenger went for a failed French centre forward who played on the wing, or a mid-fielder who was coming from Milan reserves, the rest of the football world would have said, “Fine – we certainly don’t want players like that.  What does Wenger know of English football – all these foreign players will never work.”

So, Freddie, in my humble view, you are wrong.  It is not the lack of Dein, nor the lack of buying experience. It is the change in the football world with the financial doping leading to transfer market doping.  I, of course, have never played football at anything above local level.  You were wonderful as a player.  I only beg to differ because I study Arsenal’s history.  Of course that is nothing compared with playing for the club, but it does give me just a little insight.


 We predicted that the ref would make “mistakes” and he certainly did.  To see how just how he fared, take a look at the Arsenal/Tottenham ref review.

” Nowadays Tottenham are better than us: simple as that” and other fun stories

From the History Site: Looking at referees in the past: did Arsenal have the league taken from them?

28 comments to Freddie Ljungberg interview: insights, errors and memories of being sent off

  • Gunner

    Interesting article, as always

  • Chowdhury

    Atleast he got the result [a Win for the GUNNERS] right. 🙂

  • Notoverthehill

    Tony, I would suggest that Freddie has forgotten The Emirates!

    The move from Highbury to the new The Emirates has seen Arsenal Holdings caught between perhaps one over-spender in Manure and now Chelsea, ManCiteh and even that lot beaten on Sunday!

  • Shakabula Gooner

    Lets grant that Freddy may be wrong about the past but he may not be far off about the future. Now we have:
    1. Transfer doping , as you refer to it, from Chelsea and Man City.
    2. Discovery of the International market too by the likes of Newcastle and Sunderland.
    3. Heightened fan expectations after 15yrs of being at the top.

    At this stage, we can at least agree with Freddy that:
    a. We need a more careful mix of experienced and potential stars in our transfer market dealings.
    b. Ivan may not be doing an as sure-minded job as a David did in presenting (or championing)transfer options that Arsene may instinctively not consider but which, by and large, end up adding to the joyful mix that we got in the days that the two worked together.

  • Dan T

    Freddie is one of my favourite ever Arsenal players, ever since that debut goal against Man u. Total commitment – He played for months with very painful injuries because he wanted so much to play for the team, getting fluid drained from his ankle at the start of a game and again at half-time.

  • Going back ten or so years, there were a fair few big name players we were strongly linked with, back in the days when you either went to Milan, Juventus, Madrid, Barcelona, United, Bayern Munich or us, who never appeared. IIRC we’ve always bought players no-one had heard of or who were underrated or ‘unsuitable’ in Wenger’s time at the club.

  • Shard

    Tony that was beautifully summed up. I was thinking the same thing as I read that interview. I love Freddie. What a player and what a character he was (maybe still is?) But it;s the same thing as with Petit and other pundits. It is easier to go with the flow and be simplistic. We used to win because we had ‘big’ players. We don’t win now, which means we don’t have big players and Arsenal thus need to go get them. But they did indeed become big players only after their time at Arsenal. To explain Arsenal’s model isn’t easy to do in just a few words because it stands alone. There is no parallel in world football as far as I know. Not even Ajax because they don’t deal with financial doping in their league. Not at the same level at least. Hence it is easier to look at other clubs, or the past, as some sort of guide to what is missing at Arsenal now. Sure, we can learn and improve on some things, but Arsenal do more things right, than wrong. I sound like Gazidis now, don’t I? 🙂 But it’s true.

    However, I wouldn’t disagree that we need some changes in our squad. Whether funds allow it is a different matter, but Arsenal also need to counter the PERCEPTION that Arsenal are declining. The best way to do that is on the field, but a relatively big name signing can also help change that perception. Especially because on the field, referees have long played havoc with our results.

  • Tasos

    Good article Tony.

    Freddie will be an Arsenal legend forever in My eyes, he obviously wants Arsenal to be successful again but a top footballer does not necessarily equate to a top football judge, just as many top footballers fail to make a top, or even average manager/coach.

    Off topic but the Beeb have an hour long show on Arsenal tonight; Radio 5live 8:30pm.

    Also “The Swiss Ramble” has his insightful say on Arsenals interim accounts;

  • David Stewart

    Oh course, Tony is completely correct in his comment. However, I certainly don’t think Freddie was being derisory towards Arsenal, or Arsene, in any way.

    It does frustrate how a certain section of our fanbase automatically equate the transfer fee paid with the quality of the player when we know full well over the years that a big fee does not guarentee a top quality player and vice versa. Whilst the size of the fee may indicate a players quality/potential there are many other factors to consider also.

    I, for one, certainly support Arsene’s prudence in the current transfer market (and accept that sometimes he will get it wrong). Were Arsene as cavalier as some of his contempories, we might have paid Bolton £17 million for Gary Cahill this summer when Chelsea picked him up for £7 million some 5 months later!

  • ak47

    whats all this then?


    surely it was never lost in the first place.

    i think our motto instead of forward should be intense pressure.

  • Cracking write up, totally agree

  • Damien Luu

    Yes, I believe that it is much, much harder for us (Arsenal) now in comparing with one decade ago. The whole football world becomes more and more crazy and/or stupid, all want to do it the WRONG way, but obviously the easy way, which is WASTING and LOSING money, in exchange with trophies (and pretending that it is “investment”). But the fact that Man Ur*ne, the refs’ favourite, still win most trophies, so this situation is really SICK!

    And that’s why we NEED the smart Arsene Wenger more than ever. I truly think that if he could not make it now, NO ONE ELSE could. We are not only a (top) club now, we are the only hope in this insane world.

  • Gord

    The BBC is just reporting that Aston Villa lost 53.9 million Pounds Stirling.

  • Wooby

    I do think something has gone amiss with Dein’s departure. For example, it would be interesting to see the number of ref calls that have gone against us post-Dein’s departure vs pre-departure.

  • Tasos

    If you haven’t already listened to it, it well worth your time.



  • Gooner Gal

    @ Tony, I am a bit late even for me today, but I wanted to say that this is a great article and I am so glad you added the end bit to the interview as I am concerned that there is a rewriting of history going on and memories of what has gone on in the past have become a bit hazy. Like many, I grew to love Freddie, but he never came with a world class rep and the Highbury crowd took some convincing that he was any good as I remember being asked by a fan in the crowd ‘how many top class players have you heard of coming from Sweden? It’s all a bit of a joke’. He was barely clapped on to the pitch as a sub.

    And in some quarters of the footballing world, Arsenal were considered a joke, with our players being jailed, drinking problems, drug problems, gambling problems, disiplinary problems, bungs etc affecting our performances on the pitch. I remember a Spud telling me that Arsenal had always scraped the barrel with our history of Irish, Black and problem players and when we brought in foreign players we had hit rock bottom. That was undercurrant at the time that we had bought a load of second rateplayers that wouldn’t be good enough, smart enough or strong enough to cope with the EPL. Top players went to ‘bigger’ clubs.

    Arsenal have always been to some extent perennial underdogs, who have succeeded against the odds. I love the club all the more for it, I love the players all the more for it. I love the club’s history all the more for it. Certainly, it’s recent history over the past 15 – 20 years has been like taking a piece of coal, applying the pressure to it, dusting it down to reveal a precious diamond. This assertion that the club can no longer buy the best players at the top of their game is a nonsensical point. We were never Man U or Real Madrid. The stick used to beat the manager over the head about signing players for large transfer fees should be turned on those wielding it.

    The only thing I would add to the challenges Arsenal face now in addition to the financial doping going on now is the ‘hallmark of quality’ issue. Which quite simply is that any half decent player that is associated with the club can see his value and earning potential go through the roof. If Arsenal are interested then, the player gets a better contract to stay and/or other clubs are put on alert. Clubs do business with Arsenal differently.

  • Gooner Gal

    @ Tasos, I happened to listen that show and was wondering what were your thoughts?

    For me, if Arsenal FC give any further credence to the AST (Phil, I am looking forward to your PT2 article) then they run the risk of alienating fans like me. It says everything about who they are and what they are about, that the destructive self promotionist’s would have a strapline that they are ‘critical friends’ of the club. The crass speculation about player wages and particular naming and calling out of current players such Diaby, Denilson and Bentner as players who are crippling the club and indirectly the cause of why RVP might leave is disgraceful and disrespectful. If the real agenda is to sow seeds of discord and animosity towards the Arsene Wenger, the board, Gazidis and players then their PR work is paying dividends.

    In that discussion, the fact that RVP spent almost 2 and 1/2 yrs picking up a fat pay cheque, whilst injured never came up or the simple fact that Arsenal players, yes even the much maligned ones are tapping up targets.

    Criticism is easy, feasible and realistic solutions are much harder to come by.

  • Gord

    Of the active threads at UntoldArsenal, this seems the most appropriate. I’m guessing Pearce announces that the captain of England is Walcott. After all, what team in the EPL has more captains of national teams?

    I haven’t looked, it is entirely possible that some other team has more captains of national teams. But Arsenal is among the leaders.

  • Younggun2012

    Freddie Ljungberg…You are a legend.

  • Tasos

    @Gooner Gal

    On the whole I thought the program discussed the club and its finances on a far more reasoned and intellectual level than has been the media norm. Topical questions were raised and answered, some myths were laid to rest, whilst the show also opened up yet more points for healthy debate.

    For the most part the knowledgeable panel of guest put their points across in an informative manor, however, the AST representative disappointed Me also, his belief that the club “lacks ambition”, plus his verbal attack on individual players and their “perceived” wages (by his own admission a guestimate) poisoned the debate. Was he Promoting the interests of supporters who own shares in Arsenal Football Club or was he promoting his own personal agenda?

    Many Arsenal fans appear frustrated by the lack of educational information available from the mainstream media outlets, shows like this one can only help Arsenal fans to further understand the truths behind many of the allegations. For that reason alone, this show must be viewed as a positive.

  • Gooner Gal

    @ Tasos,

    I agree that was different to an hour long talkspite radio discussion and it was interesting.

    The thing is, it was left to the presenter to defend the club. Pointing out that Arsenal spent the money it made from transfers. Dispelling the myth that Arsenal are sitting on a pile of cash and Arsene is simply refusing to spend it.

    The presenter argued against having Jabba the Hun on the board and questioned what would be the benefit of the AST’s assertion that they would like him invited on. As they have two very different philosophies. The American having a long term, reputable interest and passion for sports. Whilst Jabba the Hun has a desire to load club with debt the Chelski way. The AST rep, stuttered and unable to respond, changed tact.

    The presenter and Liverpool rep also defended the achievements of Arsenal again over past few years regarding their commercial activities and deals after the AST rep criticised the club for not being on par with Man U ‘dialling for dollars’. It was however pointed out that the much malglined commercial deals helped finance the new stadium, player development programme and put the club in the healthy position it is in today. They also highlighted how far Arsenal had grown. The AST rep, didn’t really have a response.

    Keown dispelled the myth that Arsene isn’t able to discipline players and also although flattered, clarified his minimal coaching contribution in the past to the team. The Liverpool representative showed how to discuss football finances without calling out and adding to the embarassment of his club by discussing how much out of form striker Carroll or midfielder Henderson are on. AST working off their well rehearsed or should that be rehashed(?) script started on another unsubstatiated line of statements. Arsene feels alienated at the club!!! Arsene is doing too much coaching!!! Even though he has given interviews, that player development is the part of the job he loves the most.

    What really irritated me though, is the fact that I have no idea, what benefit the AST are to the ordinary supporter. They should state more clearly in all their media activities that they represent less than a thousand people and perhaps their twitter pals. Which is very minimal when you consider the Arsenal fan base is estimated to be over 40m. They make and repeat constantly unsubstantiated assertions about the club. They have used blogs and twitter to promote them and have sown seeds of discontent for some time now. It has finally taken root and the hounding out of players like Denilson, booing and bad atmosphere at games are in my opinion part of their doing.

    Activist shareholders can be beneficial to a business but (very) minority shareholders like the AST over step boundaries. If I were looking at an investment and I saw shareholders trying to talk their own organisation down, I would be the suspicious of their motives. It’s unclear what is their end game other those already stated in previous post but they must have one.

    The more I see and hear from them I surmise it is 30 pieces of silver from a Russian oligarch.

  • Gooner Gal

    In terms of financial discussions, I would of much rather had Gazidis, a Deloitte rep, a European football business economist and execs from Barca and Man U sit down and discuss league comparisions, strengths and weaknesses of tv and other commercial deals being done and what trends seem to be emerging during this recession. I would be interested to learn about what other big clubs doing at this time?

    Focussing on Arsenal, I would like to know how Arsenal are poised to further capitalise on technological advances such as social media, smart phones and things like internet streaming. Have Arsenal fully tapped into their global fanbase? Could they have more (authentic) stores selling merchandise and holding events in overseas cities aside from organised tours. Could we have players who are injured or not playing, fly out and do give aways and signings. Could we utilise our great charity work for greater overseas brand exposure. To me the answer is yes. There are a lot of opportunities as Arsenal have great brand power and capital. Could they develop their TV programming arm further? Absolutely, as we saw from the Asia tour last year, Arsenal have some very interesting fans out there. Watching Arsenal in a bar in South Africa with fanatical Gooners was funny and different. The fact that there are so many Arsenal blogs and websites out there, tell me that there is a demand for greater engagement between the club and it’s fanbase.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Gooner Gal,

    You should have send your comments in a word file to Tony as I think they are very interesting and good remarks. Too good to be hidden somewhere in the comment section.

    I thank you for summary and thoughts about this as for me as an outsider who doesn’t have access to that radio show it tells me a bit about how it went.

  • Tasos

    @Gooner Gal

    Excellent post and I’d agree with almost all of your response.

    However, I’m not 100% sure that the bbc presenter (Mark Pougatch) should take credit for defending the club, I believe it was the former Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow, who opened the show with his “myth dispelling speech” then went on to defend many aspects of the club, who is more deserving of praise.

    I thought Pougatch loaded-up too many questions for the AST member, in fact it was he who put forward the unsubstantiated claim that “the generation of Bendtner, Squillaci, Denilson & Diaby are being too well paid”, a remark that the AST member gratefully picked upon and then ran with.

  • Tasos

    Finally, during the program Jeremy Wilson, from the Telegraph, remarked that in over 20 years of ownership Stan Kroenke has never sold a single share in any of his sports teams.

    How does Jeremy Wilson claim to know this information?
    He had interviewed Stan Kroenke late last year;

  • Gooner Gal

    @ Walter, that sounds like effort though!

    @ Tasos, I think what confused me then, is the fact that the presenter of the show, didn’t actually open and get the show rolling. It was the guest, which is strange.

    As you say, it was the fact that the AST figurehead was very grateful for the loaded question and it was like a juicy morsel thrown to a hungry dog, which he ran with. Tim Payton and his AST, castigation of players, black scarves, bin bags, booing = scum.

  • Gooner Gal

    @ Tasos, I read that interesting article. Kroenke does’nt sound like he has a broken relationship with Arsene at all. I have said it before, Arsene Wenger is so unique and brilliant that he could and would succeed in other fields entirely. Kroenke sounds like he admires him. The added value le boss brings to the club is worth a lot more than the comparatively poultry sum he is paid.