Former Arsenal midfielder Freddie Ljungberg has leaped to the defence of Arsene Wenger and blamed the club's barren trophy run on the departure of ex-vice-chairman David Dein. Barring an unexpected comeback from 4-0 down against AC Milan in the Champions League, the Gunners are poised to end a seventh straight season without silverware having also been eliminated from the FA Cup and Carling Cup. They are also 17 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League.
Boss Arsene Wenger has come under fire from fans for the lack of success, as he is set suffer the longest runu without a trophy than any previous manager at the club. But the former Sweden international denied the Gunners' decline was all down to the Frenchman, who he played under at the north London side between 1998 and 2007. Ljungberg, who is currently a free agent, stated Dein had a big influence at the club before he left his position in 2007.
Ljungberg said: ‘One thing for me when I was there was David Dein, he moved between Arsene and the board to make sure there was money to buy new players and put pressure on the players that were there. I think there is a connection between when he disappeared and that we have not won a trophy. I remember in the past we brought Gilberto after he had just won the World Cup, and we brought [Sylvain] Wiltord and [Robert] Pires who were big stars in the French national team. Now we are going for more developing youth talent, which I think is very, very good but they need someone to lean on like Patrick Vieira who has won something. We had a lot of experience of winning titles. Every man in every position was a regular in the national teams. We had the likes of Tony Adams and Lee Dixon, all of them had won everything and there was a knowledge – something to lean on.’
Wenger has been criticised for replacing departed star players with unproven youth and his reluctance to spend money in the transfer market. But Ljungberg believes the supposed shortcomings are not all down to the 62-year-old.
The Swede continued: ‘His hands are tied because I think it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and beat Arsene on it. But I saw something on a group of Arsenal fans that asks questions to the club. They want Kroenke to go out publically and state his plans for the club and I think it would be interesting to know, who is in charge of the funding?'
Arsenal have had a stuttering season in the Premier League and are in danger of missing out on the top four and Champions League football for the first time since 1997. It’s a far cry from the days of Ljungberg, who won two Premier League titles and three FA Cups during his time at the club. The midfielder admits that unless Arsenal defeat Spurs in the north London derby on Sunday, their hopes of catching their rivals in third spot will diminish and hopes for the rest of the season would remain on trying to retain their Champions League.
The 34-year-old added: ‘They are so far behind, that is the most upsetting thing. Not just the fact they are fourth and fifth but the points they are behind Manchester City, or even Tottenham. Luckily Chelsea are struggling so they have fourth spot – which is probably what they can fight for this season. To be honest if you look at the fixtures, Tottenham have quite a lot of difficult fixtures after this one. So if they could win and have a seven point gap, they have some difficult games Tottenham, and then maybe there’s a chance. Never say never but it will be very hard if they don’t win on Sunday.'
Ljungberg also disagreed with former Gunners team-mate Emmanuel Petit that Wenger has lost the dressing room, but stated that he does believe Arsenal need an experienced figure to turn around their fortunes. ‘I wouldn’t go as far as Manu has done,’ said Ljungberg. ‘I agree on his comments from a couple of days ago in that there isn’t that Vieira to lean on or that spark, but from what I see I definitely don’t think so.’
Freddie Ljungberg was speaking at the launch of the Barclays Global Fans Survey - a survey by Barclays to find out the views of Barclays Premier League fans around the world. To take part and be in with the chance of winning a trip to the UK to see your favourite Barclays Premier League team play live, visit www.barclaysfootball.com
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