It’s that time of the week again, time to see who’s made it into my list of Arsenal’s greatest signings. So far we’ve gone through Dennis Bergkamp, Ian Wright, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. This week we see yet another invincible get a mention. A player that joined the club in in 1998 and won two Premier Leagues, three F.A. Cups and a few Community Shields in his nine years at the club after taking the number eight shirt from Ian Wright, it’s Freddie Ljungberg.
After winning the league and cup double the season before, it was time for Arsenal to strengthen in their bid to retain the title which saw Ljungberg arrive from Halmstads BK for £3m. Unfortunately, the trophy wouldn’t return to Highbury straight away but Ljungberg definitely made a name for himself and Swedish football leading up to the next league and cup double in the 2001-02 season.
His Arsenal career started just as everyone would’ve liked it too. After the club drew four of their first five games they welcomed Manchester United to Highbury. Also being welcomed to Highbury that day was Freddie who confirmed Arsenal’s first win since the opening day by making it 3-0 in the first of his 328 games for the club.
After just that one goal in his debut season, the winger rapidly got goals into his game in his second season at Arsenal. Again opening his account at home against United the Swede ended the 1999-00 campaign with eight goals. In a time when the rivalry between Arsenal and United was at its fiercest, Freddie didn’t shy away from the occasion, scoring both times the sides met in the Premier League, but we couldn’t handle the firepower of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side that year as they stormed the league leaving us 18 points behind in 2nd place.
After the turn of the century, Ljungberg continued to improve his productivity inside the box scoring nine times. That season, we’d see the darts into the box that were so hard to mark – which Ljungberg’s known for – on a more consistent basis and he so very nearly rewarded at the end of the season but Michael Owen cancelled out his F.A. Cup final goal in 2001 to see Liverpool lift the trophy at the Millennium Stadium.
Finally, new number 8 had some silverware to take home. 2001-02 saw Arsene Wenger’s new generation of foreign and English talent secure his second and the clubs third league and cup double, with Ljungberg entering the form of his life. That season saw the little Swede hit double figures in goals for the first time in Arsenal colours and almost double his tally for the previous season with 17. Like usual, so many of those goals came from that classic out to in run and some of the highlights included his goal against Juventus, a chip after Bergkamp had taken their defence for a roller coaster ride, as well as producing clutch moments against United home and away again resulting in us winning the league and topping it all with that curled winner against Chelsea in the F.A. Cup final to cement him and his red striped hair in Arsenal history.
The next saw a slight dip, similar to the last time Arsenal tried to retain a title as they finished 2nd, with Ljungberg putting up 10 goals but the invincible season would see him keep his consistency on the way to the title. Opening his account after a David Seaman mistake away at Manchester City, he went on to score 10 times in 2003-04 including goals against Tottenham and Inter Milan. Being a constant threat down the flanks too he would also make seven assists that season helping Arsenal to a historic feat.
Even though he was now reaching his late 20’s Ljungberg still had something in the tank, managing to score on 14 occasions in the 2004-05 season. The highlight of these came in the 5-4 demolition derby win at White Hart Lane finishing off a masterful reverse pass from a young Cesc Fabregas. Unfortunately though, after that season we’d see time catch up with Freddie as goals became rarer.
In his last two seasons at the club – which saw him move over to the Emirates for a year – he’d only score four goals. In these two seasons, injuries became more frequent, as you’d imagine, which resulted in him seemingly fading out of the team with the likes of Alex Hleb and Tomas Rosicky able to put in shifts in out wide and Adebayor taking up the space next to Henry.
Ljungberg’s Arsenal career would come to an end in the summer of 2007 when he’d move to West Ham as he wasn’t able to perform to the standards of years before. But thankfully all those years before the move to the Emirates were filled with great Ljungberg memories and that’s what makes him one of Arsenal’s greatest transfers.