'Ljungberg has helped my game a lot' - Maitland-Niles praises Arsenal coach's influence

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Freddie Ljungberg Arsenal
Having been promoted to assistant first-team coach in the summer, the former Invincible has already made a big impression on the squad

Ainsley Maitland-Niles has praised Freddie Ljungberg's influence at Arsenal, calling the Swede “a big figure in the team”.

Ljungberg was promoted from Arsenal Under-23s boss to assistant first-team coach in the summer, with Steve Bould moving in the opposite direction.

The former Invincible has been working closely with Unai Emery for the last few months and, according to Maitland-Niles, making his presence felt in the dressing room.

“There's quite a few things [I have learnt from Ljungberg] really,” he said. “He knows me as a winger, so attacking-wise he's helped my game a lot. Defensively, I go to someone else to help me because they're two different styles that I have to play.

“Him personally, he's pulled me to the side a lot and has shown me different techniques and ways of beating players, ways of crossing the ball and shooting.

“It's helping me and I'm happy to have him around because he's such a big figure in the team.”

Ljungberg has been widely praised for taking a proactive approach behind the scenes this season, trying to help Emery to communicate with his players more effectively and serving as a bridge between the senior set-up and the academy.

Credited with a major role in breakthroughs for youngsters like Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka, he has become an increasingly important figure at the club.

Willock has previously described Ljungberg as “a mentor” while Saka has rated him as “a big part in my progress”. Asked about Ljungberg's impact last month, Emery said: “He knows Arsenal perfectly, the young players. He helps us every day in training, the matches and before.

“He knows the characteristics of the Premier League. I’m very happy with him. Each assistant has their work. We are together to speak with the players, we are in the dressing room, we spoke about all the situations individually. We share some moments.”

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There have been reports that, should Emery leave Arsenal, Ljungberg could be a serious contender to replace him.

And speaking on The Kelly and Wrighty Show recently, Arsenal legend Ian Wright said: “All the youngsters you speak to – Joe [Willock], Reiss [Nelson], all the young guys – they’ve got nothing but great stuff to say about Freddie.

“I’m sure that Freddie, [and] his involvement now with the transition from the academy into the first team, is vitally important.”