Interview

‘I’m proud that we stood up for ourselves’

Ljungberg

Despite torrential rain and a host of injuries, our under-23s dug deep on Monday night to secure a goalless draw with league leaders Everton.

We’ve scored more Premier league 2 goals than any other side in the division this season - but it was our dogged defensive work that left Freddie Ljungberg delighted after the final whistle. 

This is what he said:

on the team’s performance…
It was a tough, tough game and it’s a tough place to come to. The pitch wasn’t the best so it was difficult to play football and we talked about that before. We wanted to go behind them and there was a lot of 50/50 balls and long balls - and we wanted to match them. I’m really proud that they could do that. Sometimes they say ‘Oh Arsenal is a bit soft’ and this and that, but we really stood up and had a fight with them and cancelled them out, so I’m really proud as a coach today.

on the team’s defensive qualities…
We talked about it before and said it’s nice to play football and all of that, but you need to do the ugly stuff as well. They did that all of today and with the weather it was difficult to play, but we matched them with effort and when the long balls came we weren’t scared to put our head in there, so well done to the boys.

on having key players out injured…
Yeah, we had a lot of players out missing but that happens in U-23s football. Sometimes you don’t know what team you have. Nathan made his first start for a long, long time and he did really well and then you have to take him off because of minutes, so they all put a shift in today. It sounds bad but when we win games we’re always so happy, but today I’m really proud in a different way. They really showed the character they have. 

on Ballard and Pleguezuelo making a number of last-ditch tackles…
Often when we play people talk about the nice slick passing and that we score goals, but today all the defenders and midfielders did so well defensively, so of course we need to praise them.