Freddie Ljungberg explained why he was so keen to enter Arsenal’s academy side into the Checkatrade Trophy this season, after their debut win over Coventry City.
Arsenal are making their first appearance in the competition, after choosing to play in the Premier League International Cup in previous years. Whilst that gave them the chance to play against youth teams from across Europe, the Checkatrade Trophy provides an opportunity to face senior players, albeit from lower divisions.
U23 coach Freddie Ljungberg thinks that experience is important for Arsenal’s developing starlets.
“I fought quite hard for us to be in this competition because I think it gives players experience of beating grown men,” Ljungberg told Standard Sport. “It’s different, you see that when the tackles go flying in and the fans are cheering. That’s what happens in men’s football and they have to be ready for it.
“We’re not always the strongest players on the pitch, you have to use your technique in different ways. They learned a lot tonight and that’s great.”
Obviously there are other ways for players to play senior football. That’s generally what the loan system is used for, but this year Arsenal haven’t made extensive use of the option to send youngsters out temporarily.
Ljungberg thinks playing in the Checkatrade Trophy can actually be better for the players, because he can keep a closer eye on their development.
“This is a very important competition to be a part of for young players to get a touch of first team football,” he said. “We send them on loan but then we can’t coach them at the same time as they play against first-teams. I can do that here. It’s great for me.”
Hopefully the Gunners can remain in the competition for as long as possible, to continue reaping the benefits of facing senior opponents on a regular basis for the remainder of the season.