Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Back to the future for the U23s?

Morning all.

It’s a quiet Tuesday with regards the senior team and stories there, but there’s some work for Per Mertesacker to do at U23 level, after it was announced head coach Kevin Betsy would be leaving to take over at Crawley Town. He takes with him U18s head coach Dan Micciche to be his assistant.

The BFG says:

“We’re grateful for the work Kevin and Dan have done to manage and develop our under-23s and under-18s. Both have shown outstanding coaching ability so it’s no surprise they’re heading into first team management in the EFL. This is a great opportunity for them, and on behalf of everyone at Arsenal, I’d like to thank them for their service and wish them the very best of luck in the future.”

The question now is who takes over? Interestingly, our Arseblog News youth correspondent Jeorge Bird brings up the name Freddie Ljungberg on his own site (along with Jack Wilshere who spoke last week about hanging up his playing boots if the right coaching job came along).

Freddie must surely be a candidate, having started his coaching career with the U15s, and playing a key role in the development of Bukayo Saka. Here’s Saka talking about him last year:

“When he took over my development, he challenged me in a way other coaches didn’t. He pushed me and saw my potential in a way other coaches didn’t.

“All the way to the under-23s he was still pushing me and even in the first team he was still helping me, even until today. He has had a big influence on my career.”

After spending time at Wolfsburg under former Academy boss Andries Jonker, he came back to Arsenal to take over the U23s. Then there was the job-swap move when he was ‘promoted’ to Unai Emery’s coaching staff with Steve Bould moving back to youth level where he’d had so much experience in the past. Emery said:

Freddie is helping us with the young players because he knows them better than anyone else.

Obviously it didn’t work out with Emery, and when he was fired, Freddie took over in a caretaker capacity for a few games, before staying for the first 6 months after Mikel Arteta was appointed. When he departed, he spoke about his desire to further his management experience, saying:

“I have decided to leave my first-team assistant coaching role at Arsenal to progress my management experience. I have been involved with this club on and off since 1998 and am grateful for all the opportunities they have given me both as a player and as a coach.

“I wish Mikel and all the team every success for the season ahead. Thanks also to the fans for their constant support and for always being by my side. I hope we will all meet again soon.”

I don’t know what he might have been doing behind the scenes, like many he could have been spending time at various clubs under various managers to further his skills, but there hasn’t been a public coaching job since. With Arsenal now in need of a replacement for Kevin Betsy, could we go back again? It would make a lot of sense if Freddie was up for it, he knows the club, he’s got a good track record at this level, and with some very promising young players to work with it, it could certainly be a tempting prospect.

As for Jack Wilshere, he spoke last week, saying:

“If a coaching opportunity came up, I wouldn’t be sad to say ‘right that’s it, I’m done with playing’.”

He too spent time with us as an assistant coach, and you’ll remember the constant questions about whether or not we were going to offer him a short-term playing contract throughout last season. I don’t think that was ever realistic, but something like this might be. What an interesting coaching team they’d be as well. Two players who understand the club as well as possible, who spent time under Arsene Wenger in two different eras, and whose footballing ideals would be more than likely informed by that.

Both have good solid relationships with the club, and may well be the right candidates to provide a bit of consistency for the U23s. It’s normal that good work at this level will open doors to senior jobs, that’s a fact of Academy life, but when Per Mertesacker considers what he does now to fill those roles, those two names must surely be on his list somewhere.

Right, that’s it for this morning. I’ll leave you with brand new Arsecast Extra recorded last night. Happy listening!

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This Arsecast Extra was recorded with ipDTL

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