Freddie Ljungberg: Arsenal interim boss says young players cannot carry club's expecations

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Freddie Ljungberg reacts after Arsenal's 2-2 Europa League draw against Standard Liege 0:55
Arsenal interim boss Freddie Ljungberg says the club cannot put all their 'hope' on the emerging youth promise

Arsenal interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg is excited by the potential of the club's younger players but says the experienced members of the squad will be paramount to their chances of success.

The Swede knows the talent at Arsenal, including Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson, having led the U23s last season and saw 18-year-old summer signing Gabriel Martinelli score against West Ham on Monday in his full Premier League debut.

Ljungberg, who last week insisted the top four was realistic despite sitting seven points adrift of the Champions League spots, admits the promise of youth should not overshadow the role his senior players have to play.

Freddie Ljungberg gives instructions to Lacazette during Arsenal's 2-2 draw with Standard Liege 0:35
Arsenal interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg says he is 'proud' of the character his young team showed to come from behind at Standard Liege to qualify for the Europa League last 32

"They are great young kids," Ljungberg told Sky Sports News, after a young, inexperienced Gunners side reached the Europa League knockout stages with a 2-2 draw at Standard Liege on Thursday.

Saka 0:50
Freddie Ljungberg hailed Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka as a 'tremendous talent' after his goal and assist helped the Gunners to a 2-2 Europa League draw at Standard Liege

"I try to remind people that they are young and that is not what we should put the hope of the club on. That is too much pressure.

Gabriel Martinelli celebrates equalising for Arsenal at West Ham
Image: Gabriel Martinelli began Arsenal's turnaround in fortunes at the London Stadium to help seal Ljungberg his first win in charge

"For me if they would have been out on loan before or they had [played] 50-100 professional games in men's football then they would have made mistakes maybe in those clubs.

"Sometimes they will make mistakes. That is normal with the young players. They will learn from it - that is the only way they get better. They need to play.

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"I have been very impressed with them, especially the energy that they give. They are not scared, they make mistakes, and they go again. It is a pleasure to see.

Freddie Ljungberg
Image: Ljungberg celebrates with Mesut Ozil after victory against West Ham

"At the same time we can't forget the older players give that framework and talk to them all the time, they try to give them advice. I am proud of the old guys that they really like to try and help them."

Arsenal have fallen behind in each of Ljungberg's four games in temporary charge so far - conceding seven goals in the process - and the 42-year-old knows there is more work needed to tighten their defence.

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"Sometimes in transitions we are vulnerable when people come at us but it has been like that for a long time," he said.

"We try to fix small things. Certainly our structure is getting better but it is [about] time. I don't have a magic wand!

"They are developing and we are getting better but at the same time we defend as a team, not just the back four."

Ljungberg, who won the Premier League twice during a nine-year playing career at the club, admits Arsene Wenger has provided him advice about the challenges of the role but didn't explain specifically in how his former boss has helped.

Arsene Wenger with Freddie Ljungberg in Arsenal training
Image: Ljungberg has described his former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger as a 'true gentleman'
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Asked whether he wants the job full-time he replied: "It doesn't really matter because I am here to be here day-to-day. I try not to think about any other thoughts because it is irrelevant.

"There have been no discussions about transfers. All I have been told is do this from day to day and 'we will let you know what we do'. I respect that and just try to do the job as best I can."

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Arsenal host Premier League champions Manchester City on Sunday, live on Sky Sports, targeting a first home league win since October 6.

City are 14 points behind league leaders Liverpool but Ljungberg expects a tough challenge, despite Pep Guardiola's side stuttering domestically.

Gabriel Jesus scored his second Champions League hat-trick in Man City's 4-1 win in Zagreb
Image: Manchester City beat Dinamo Zagreb 4-1 in the Champions League in midweek

He said: "In my opinion they have a very nice game plan. They have played with each other for a very long time so it is almost as if before the ball gets there they know where to move, what rotation to do.

"As an opponent that is quite difficult to play again. I have a strong belief in consistency - the longer you can play with that teammate you know what he prefers, how he moves.

"So, if you have had that for a long time like they have had you become better and better and for us harder and harder to play against."

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