When Arsenal parted ways with Arsene Wenger just over a year ago, it was the first time the club had undertaken such a move for 22 years.
Preparing for the Frenchman’s departure will have been new territory for much of the Gunners board, and recent developments may suggest they have gained an appetite for this type of forward planning.
With his replacement just completing his first season at the helm, the board made a move earlier this week which smelled of more than just your standard promotion.
Freddie Ljungberg’s effective job-swap with former assistant manager Steve Bould saw the Swede appointed to his highest managerial role to date, as a member of the prime Wenger years joined the first-team setup after some promising work in the club’s Under-23 side.
As someone who knows what it takes to win the trophies Arsenal are looking to bring to the club post-Wenger, the 42-year-old’s close connection with the club puts him in good stead to deliver the success the team craves.
And following the disappointment that curtailed the success of Arsenal’s first season under Unai Emery, it wouldn’t be too surprising should The Gunners be giving their former midfielder enough of a taste for a future role that may well become vacant if next season’s results follow a similar pattern to the last.
With other club legends returning to their former sides with mixed success in recent years, this would certainly be a bold move by Arsenal.
The club will be hoping any Ljungberg tenure will be as successful as Roberto Di Matteo’s (early) Chelsea spell than the current Manchester United reign of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but by exposing the former Gunner to the day-to-day demands of top-level management beforehand, it will be the hope that this approach will lead to fewer mistakes if and when the top job becomes available.
Manchester City may seek a similar approach with Mikel Arteta (especially if Pep Guardiola went on a once-rumoured sabbatical), with the former Arsenal captain surely now well-tuned to the philosophy behind Pep’s magic formula – which may well also see him in the frame for a future vacant Gunners hotseat.
Ljungberg’s early success as Under-23 coach – which saw the club’s top academy side finish runners-up in the Premier League 2 division – has clearly caught the eye of those in high places at Arsenal, as the now ex-Academy manager will look to integrate the club’s best youth products into the first team.
Being named as part of Arsenal’s ‘transition team’, perhaps there is more than meets the eye in this intriguing appointment – as Arsenal may need a change if things go wrong next year.
And if the early signs are anything to go by, Arsenal may have found a gem of a replacement in one of their former stars.