Freddie – Arsenal’s Secret Sauce?

Can anyone remember the last time we had such a good crop of home-grown young players?

I’ve been wracking my brains (doesn’t take long) and I’d have to go all the way back to the George Graham era, when the likes of Rocastle, Thomas, Merson, Adams, Hayes, Davis and yes, even Perry Groves all came through together.

Prior to that it’s probably the wonderful Dublin connection that brought us O’Leary, Brady and Stapleton all at the same time in the early 1970s

We have had many “promising” youngsters over the years who shine for a while but seldom make the grade (Frimpong, Traore, Akpom, Hoyte… add your own suggestions).

Some one-offs have broken through (Gibbs, Wilshere) but there has not been – until now – that sense of a unit of contemporary players who have come through the Academy together and all look capable of commanding a first team place.

A reasonable question is why now?

Have we just been lucky? Have our junior talent scouts upped their game? Has coaching improved at the Academy? Is there something in the water?

It’s a tough one to answer without detailed inside knowledge, but Rasp made an interesting comment on Wednesday as we all basked in the satisfaction of thrashing Notts Forest. He said: “I’m beginning to love Freddie as a coach as much as I did as a player … he must take a lot of credit for the emerging players after his work in the academy … our next Arsenal manager? …. is it too early to hope?”

Leaving aside whether Freddie Ljungberg could be a future Head Coach for us, can he take credit (or at least share the credit) for the development of players like Willock, Nelson, Saka, Smith-Rowe, Nketieh and others?

The former red-haired one joined as an Academy coach on July 12th2016, working under Andries Jonker. At that time the young stars now breaking into our first team were aged 15 or 16, so they most certainly would have worked with Freddie and built a rapport with him. And they would have known enough about him to grasp what an Arsenal legend he is.

However, the story is not that simple. Because by March 2017 Freddie was gone. Jonker was lured away to be the new manager of Vfl Wolfsburg and he took the Fredster with him. Freddie’s spell with the Academy was just eight and a half months.

Things didn’t work out for Jonker at Wolfsburg. Within six months of arriving he was given the chop along with his coaching team, including Ljungberg. But Arsenal had obviously liked what they’d seen when Freddie was at the Academy and he was soon back as Under 23 coach, starting in June last year. A year after that he was promoted to the first team coaching set-up.

So yes, Freddie can take some credit for having influenced the current crop of young Gunners. Certainly the continuity for them of having been coached by him at youth level and now at senior level must have its advantages.

But perhaps the overlooked man in all this is Andries Jonker, who has not had a job since getting the boot at Wolfsburg. It is generally accepted  within Arsenal that it was Jonker who completely overhauled our Academy coaching structure when he arrived at the start of the 2014/15 season.

He changed the way players were educated within the club, which meant they could spend more time at the training ground in each other’s company. He was also instrumental in the building of the new training facilities at Hale End, where three pitches were put aside exclusively for Academy use.

So really it’s Jonker, not Freddie who is the secret sauce behind the emergence of our new generation, even though Freddie was one of the ingredients in that sauce.

If you have an alternative theory as to why the new crop are doing so well, I’d love to hear it.

And also, what do you feel about the Academy now being in the hands of the BFG? To answer my own question, I couldn’t be more thrilled. Per Mertesacker was one of the most intelligent players (and men) we have had at the club for years, as well as being an outstanding defender, a great captain and apparently a figure who was liked and respected by all. If he can build on the Jonker (and Freddie) foundations, then our Academy should be able to provide a conveyer belt of future first teamers for years to come.



29 Responses to Freddie – Arsenal’s Secret Sauce?

  1. Sohara says:

    Thanks for this article very informative & makes for in exciting future for our arsenal academy future. I noticed Freddie coaching our young players between breaks in play last Tuesday ( Arsene would never have allowed that) but Emery let’s him which can only help our young guns

  2. VP of Oz says:

    Another brilliant post Rocky, thank you.
    So much talent coming through and Dick (with Freddie’s input) is giving them game time which makes for every game to be an exciting one. Whats not to love. COYG!

  3. Rasp says:

    Great post Rocky … I really should do my research before making sweeping statements … thanks for doing it for me 🙂

    I agree that Per is just the kind of guy to run the academy … he led by example on the pitch but always retained his style and dignity.

    Kudos to Junker. This is what I’m liking about the post Gazidis Arsenal set up, we have a team of top guys making it all happen behind the scenes many of whom are virtually unknown to supporters like me … our own civil service if you like.

  4. RockyLives says:

    Hi Rasp
    Funnily enough I started looking into Freddie’s role at the Academy because I found your suggestion eminently plausible. I don’t think what I found out undermines the contention that the Fredster has had a positive impact, but it made me more appreciative of Jonker’s role.

    I guess Jonker and his role may have been discussed on here on occasions that I missed during my North American wanderings, but I found it interesting.

    Sohara and VP
    Thanks for the kind comments. Sohara – great observation about Freddie coaching the young players in the breaks in play. AW and Bouldie always seemed so passive during games, so it’s great to have an activist coach on the bench.

  5. allezkev says:

    Very interesting post Rocky, thanks.

    Jonker brought a few Dutch coaches with him when he came to Arsenal, I think the goalkeeping coach is still with us, but yeah, I did hear some whispers about the academy being in a bit of a mess when he arrived and needing some serious freshening up.

    Dermot Drummy was a top youth coach for us a few years back and didn’t we allow Chelsea to poach him from us?

    Maybe we’re more bullish now in terms of keeping the good people we’ve got and that has had an effect also in the level and quality of coaching, scouting and sourcing young players?

    O’Leary, Stapleton, Rix, Matthews, Powling, Ross, Rostron, Brady, Devine, that was a fantastic group of youngsters our academy developed back in the mid 1970’s.

    Before them George, Kennedy, Kelly, Rice, Nelson, Roberts weren’t too bad either…

  6. RockyLives says:

    Just watching Sheffield Utd v ‘Pool.

    ‘Pool getting themselves into trouble trying to play out from the back with Sheffield players pressing really high.

    It’s not just us!

  7. RockyLives says:

    Good call on that 1971 generation. Were they all players who came through our youth set-up? (Obviously I know Charlie did, but it’s impressive if the others did too).

  8. RockyLives says:

    Sheffield the better team at half time (0-0), but Liverpool’s attacking quality will no doubt prove decisive in the second half.

  9. Sue says:

    Nice post, Rocky 👍
    Bellerin is playing for the U23’s, currently 1-0 down…against Liverpool. Speaking of Liverpool – they’re to be investigated, due to supposedly fielding an ineligible player midweek. They may be kicked out? Oh please yes, do it now 😂

  10. RockyLives says:

    Well, ‘Pool get the victory (0-1) but it wasn’t their attacking quality wot won it as I’d expected, it was a horrendous goalkeeping error.

    We play Sheffield in a few weeks and on this outing they’re far from a pushover.

  11. Sue says:

    Omg how jammy are Liverpool?? Their first shot on target and had to rely on the gk to help it in!! Smh!!! Some teams have all the luck…..

  12. RA says:

    I knew it was a Rocky Post part way through the first sentence — there is a certain relaxed, effortless air about the languid and unassuming style that is peculiar to our best author. 🥺

    Ironically it was during the era of the much derided Gazidis that Bonkers Jonkers and a number of others were appointed.

    Many of the current crop of youth players were first recruited at age 11, or even younger, so altho Freddie Bear, and his coaching, are rightly credited with the development of these first team tyros, but, in addition, these kids were probably given the benefit of many other coaches during their burgeoning careers at Arsenal.

    Nice one, Rockydoodle. 😜

  13. RA says:


    “Smh” —- save my hicky??? Really?

  14. RA says:

    And, by the way, Rocky, I think we have become more canny in ‘pinching’ more young players from other clubs, both in the UK, and overseas for relative peanuts.

    Not all have made it, of course, but they have improved the all round quality for others to benefit from, such as Gnabry, Nketiah, Ben Sheaf, Medley, Marinelli …..

  15. RA says:

    Arsenal U23s 2 : 2 ‘Piddle U 23s.

  16. Sue says:

    RA.. I’m astonished that a man of your age even knows the word ‘hicky’ 😂😂😂

  17. Sue says:

    Sergio has got to come on surely!! That kit is so bright (& gross) it’s giving me a migraine 🙈
    Come on City… one result has to go my way today 🙏

  18. Sue says:

    Bloody hell, City…. that was as tense as watching us!!

  19. LB says:

    Very informative post, as I was reading through I thought who is the author and then it became apparent that it was the work of the Rockstar, great read, thanks.

    The thing about Freddie that always amazes me is: how on earth did did he get to where he is now.

    If you think of the Invincible’s team who would you imagine was most likely to succeed in the world of management and who would you think the least likely?

    I don’t know who is the most likely but I certainly know that Freddie was the least likely.

    But hay ho, I suppose, if the cap fits and all that well done Freddie.

    Ok, gotta say it: I thought Freddie was gay, nothing wrong with being gay of course but, I would have thought, things might get a bit awkward working with very young men and all that.

    But anyway, as it turns out I am obviously wrong, he must have only been gay while he was at West Ham which makes sense. Now, however, back with us, things are all above board, married to Natalie Foster.

    Top man our Freddie.


  20. RockyLives says:

    While I’ve been away in the Americas your dry wit has become positively desiccated.
    Quality comment 😀

  21. allezkev says:

    Rocky, I think that Roberts came from Northampton Town, much as we sourced Holding from Bolton, all the others came up via the South-East Counties and Combination Leagues and formed the the core of young players who with those that came through the system in the early 1960’s like Radford, Simpson, Storey, Armstrong, Sammels and Wilson won us the Fairs Cup in 1970 and the Double in 1971.

  22. RC78 says:

    PSG dismantled its B team so now they have a youth set up for under 19 I think and the senior team. Huge drama about it. So basically if you are not good enough to join the pro team by 20 or 21 max, u r out

  23. Sue says:

    Another win for the women – 4-0 – just the norm 😁👍 well done!

    Happy Birthday to the BFG

  24. fatgingergooner says:

    That’s a career ender from Hayden. Awful follow through. Lucky he hasn’t damaged him.

  25. fred1266 says:

    Mkhitarian with an assis

  26. RC78 says:

    I know he s old but he has so much enthusiasm, exoeriencnd and is great in the final third….I am talking about Ribery who at 36 is having a remarkable start to life in Série A. Would he have been a good guide for the RN, Martinelli and Saka of our squad?

  27. RC78 says:

    I always rated Mkhy but seems he struggled with EPl pace and physicality. The guy is quality and maybe playing him behind the striker is an amazing idea. His movement and passing is classy so expect him to be bought by the Romans. They may have in Mkhy the closer thing to Totti since Totti left

  28. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Rocky

    I am quite happy with what is going on behind the scenes. We look to have a decent set up now and Freddie dies indeed look a key part to it

    Now just to nail it with the first 11. I saw there was some debate on the Xhaka as captain thing. I still find it a strange decision. Many of the fan base have serious concerns over his ability and what role he actually plays, and it is hardly as if he is new and adapting to EPL life, so if he isn’t doing it for us now…………

    I get the feeling, as Mike said, that Xhaka could become a defining factor in our season and Emery’s future with us. Can he become a more specialist and effective player even at this stage? I feel that will have to happen as the same old same old probably won’t cut it.

  29. Rasp says:

    Morning all …

    … New post …

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