'We've a bright chance this time'

Former Arsenal ace Fredrik Ljungberg says the team is in great shape now

'We've a bright chance this time'

For decades Arsenal fans in the country have waited with bated breath to get the real feeling of being a Gooner. While great rivals Manchester United made serious inroads into the Indian market by even giving their fans their own pub, the Gooners were limited to just buying replica jerseys.

However, their dreams came true in delightful fashion as legend Fredrik Ljungberg made a dashing visit to the City to launch the club’s new merchandise. Cheered by hundreds of fans, some who travelled over 400 kilometres in a Arsenal-themed bus, the stylish Swede spoke about being a part of the Invincible era, his thoughts on manager Arsene Wenger and the season ahead. Excerpts...

What is your best memory at Arsenal?

There are a lot of special memories but one that comes to my mind is the goal I scored on debut against Manchester United. It had been just a week since I had come into the club and when I was told I was going to be substituted, I was shaking like a leaf. To score against your biggest rivals is simply amazing.

Could you describe your thoughts on being part of the Invincibles...
The biggest problem for a player is if you win, you want to keep on winning. That season (2003-04), we just kept on winning game after game. The problem was after we had won the league, we had nothing to play for. Many teams win titles, but you are remembered forever if you do something special. So, we wanted to go unbeaten that season and create something special.

Do you Invincibles still keep in touch?

Yes. We are still very close and constantly text or phone each other. We are still great friends and stay in touch.

Who were your toughest opponents?

I’ve played against a lot of great teams but the greatest rival would be Manchester United. Both of us have great history and playing against them always brings the best out of you. I’ve got great respect for them and to play against such teams is the reason why you play football.

What are your thoughts on the new  signings?

We’ve made some very good signings -- Mathieu Debuchy, Callum Chambers. One who catches my eye is Alexis Sanchez.
I was very impressed by him four years ago at the South Africa World Cup. You saw his full potential this time at Brazil. It’s taken four years, and I’m glad we’ve managed to sign such a talented player.

Who do you think will be the breakthrough player this season?

There are so many wonderful players in the current team but my money is on Mesut Ozil. He took his time last season and this season you may get to see the best out of him. I also think Jack Wilshere will finally showcase his true potential.

What are your thoughts on Arsene Wenger?

Arsene is great, probably one of the greatest managers. He picks players at a very young age and moulds them into a special player.

He is very patient. I came to the club as a 20-year-old and he is the main reason why I’ve gone on to become a good player. Of late, he’s been criticised a lot which is not right. The club was going through a lot of financial constraints and he’s guided the club through a tough phase.

Now, we are very robust financially and ready to take the next step. There is so much to learn from Arsene. For Wenger, winning is not important, winning in style is important -- the Arsenal way. That’s what you learn.

Can Arsenal win the league this season?

I believe so. To win the league, you need to have the best players in the world. Due to financial restraints, we could not do that the last few years. Now that we are out of it and made some very good signings, I think we stand a chance. I hope to go all the way.

Who is the best Arsenal player you’ve seen?

Dennis Bergkamp.

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