Wenger pounces to sign super Swede
Published 12/09/1998 | 00:11
ARSENAL boss Arsene Wenger picked up the telephone to order the £3 million signing of Fredrik Ljungberg after watching on television as the Swede destroyed an England defence containing Tony Adams and David Seaman.
The capture of 21-year-old Ljungberg was completed yesterday afternoon after a medical examination and the former Halmstads forward will be available to make his debut against Manchester United at Highbury tomorrow week. He was signed too late for day's Premiership game at Leicester and is ineligible for the group matches in the European Champions' League, in which the Gunners play Lens in France next Wednesday.
The Swede's his arrival means Wenger has finally boosted his strike-force after a forlorn summer search following the departure of Ian Wright to West Ham and the collapse of a bid to buy Patrick Kluivert from AC Milan.
``I have been aware of Ljungberg for some time but after watching him on Saturday I decided to move for him very quickly,'' said Wenger.
``He's a player of intelligence and technique with pace and a fighting desire and, of course, he is also young.
``We knew he was doing well in Swedish football but the pace of the game there is slower and not so demanding. I wanted to see how he performed against England and it was very impressive.
``I always said before the start of the new season that we needed two more players of quality. Now that we have got one I am confident we will soon get the other one. There are some plans but I cannot say what they are.''
LJUNGBERG has won five Swedish caps, scoring one goal against Denmark in March and made 139 appearances for Halmstads, the club he joined straight from school.
Ljungberg, first spotted for Arsenal by scout Don Mackay, the former Blackburn and Coventry manager, is 5ft 10ins tall with dark hair untypical of his countrymen. He scored 16 goals for Halmstads but Wenger does not see him as a natural replacement for Wright.
``He could be more in place of David Platt, who retired at the end of last season. I see him as a support player for the front two or wide on either flank.''
Wenger has left skipper Tony Adams out of his team for today's match at Leicester, even though the defender bounced back from his Swedish nightmare to produce an outstanding performance in the Gunners' scoreless draw with Chelsea on Wednesday night.
``I am resting Tony and he is happy about that,'' claimed Wenger. ``My biggest concern is to keep him fit and ensure he does not again suffer too much inflammation in his ankle, which has been a problem for him over some time.''
Steve Bould will replace Adams as captain at Filbert Street and former England U-21 cap Stephen Hughes is set to deputise for suspended midfielder Emmanuel Petit.
But the big spotlight will again be on Dutch striker Dennis Bergkamp, who bagged a memorable hat-trick in the corresponding game last season and went on to finish with 22 goals for the season in which he was named footballer of the year by his fellow professionals as well as the football writers.
This term Bergkamp has still to hit the target after five games and he admitted: ``I have been nowhere near my best. The World Cup coming straight after a long English season took so much out of me and I have struggled to get back. But I have never lost confidence in what I can do.''
BERGKAMP, whose wife Henrita presented him with their second child (son Mitchel) on Thursday morning, added: ``It's true I have been worrying about my wife and the birth and now it feels like a big release a better feeling than any goal you could ever score.
``The hat-trick I got at Leicester was a special one because they were all good goals, particularly the last one, and it seemed to spark me off for the season. It would be nice to spark off again there and make a lovely celebration of my new son.''
Wenger, meanwhile, has revealed that his future at Highbury is inextricably linked to the Arsenal directors who brought him to the club staying in control despite a possible £270m takeover bid by media group Carlton Communications.
A new four-year contract for the manager who won the Double last season has been lying around unsigned for two months.
And, although he insists that news of the Carlton bid has not affected his resolve to commit to a long-term future at the Gunners, Wenger pointed out: ``I've given my word to the directors, but if tomorrow they are no longer around, then who knows what could change.''
David Pleat has issued a `hands-off' warning to George Graham after reports linking Leeds with a £6million bid for Darren Anderton.
Leeds boss Graham has been promised £15million to spend on new players, and the Spurs' ace is said to be his top target.
Doncaster have made former Scotland and Liverpool midfielder Steve Nicol their latest star signing. Nicol joins Neville Southall, John Sheridan and player-manager Ian Snodin in the squad for today's Conference match at Hayes.