Freddie Ljungberg is an Arsenal legend: there is no two ways about it.
The former Sweden international winger joined the Gunners from Halmstads BK in the summer of 1998 and went on to establish himself as a key player in his subsequent nine years at the North London club.
Ljungberg helped Arsenal win the Premier League twice and the FA Cup three times, and was a favourite among the fans.
However, it could all have been different had a certain Arsene Wenger not been at the club, as the 37-year-old former West Ham United and Celtic star has now revealed that it was because of the French manager that he joined the Gunners in the first place.
‘Of course I was very excited to come and play for the champions of the Premier League’, he told The Times of India.
‘But I was seeing Juventus the next day and a Spanish club the day after that of same stature so it wasn't the size of the club that made it a dream move. It was more being able to work with such a fantastic manager as Arsene Wenger’.
Wenger was criticised and even ridiculed by many of the club’s fans during the nine-year trophy drought between 2005 and 2014 (which ended with FA Cup success in May).
However, there can be no doubt that just like Ljungberg back in 1998, many of the players since then have joined the 13-time English champions because of the Frenchman.
Last year’s big signing Mesut Ozil and this summer’s major recruit Alexis Sanchez both stated that working with Wenger was a key factor behind their decisions to move to Arsenal.
Wenger, though, has persistently failed to lead Arsenal to Champions League glory. The last time the 1994 European Cup Winners’ Cup champions went close was in 2006 when they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Barcelona in the final in Paris.
Ljungberg started that match and admits that it hurts that he failed to conquer Europe during his time at Arsenal.
‘We won many trophies but never the Champions League and that hurt’, he concedes. ‘We were seen as favorites many times but we often got knocked out of the tournament on away goals late in the games and that still hurts’.
Arsenal still remain a force in Europe, but Wenger has yet to make them genuine contenders for the Champions League.
Perhaps that will change this season…
How important is Arsene Wenger to Arsenal?