He's Swedish, He Holds England's Destiny. Name of Ljungberg
Holland, Matt, The Independent (London, England)
"Cometh the hour, cometh the man", and those with even the slightest interest in football will know from the past week that that man is a Swede. No, not that one, I am referring to Freddie Ljungberg. With the Premiership race, and this year thank goodness it can be called a race, reaching an exciting conclusion, Ljungberg more than any other player is affecting the outcome.
Four goals in the last five games from the midfielder have helped Arsenal to stay at the top, and in their last two fixtures, us last Sunday and West Ham on Wednesday, he broke the deadlock when the rest of the team struggled.
He was magnificent last Sunday, causing our defence problems from the very beginning, and part of the reason is his speed. Think of pace at Arsenal and you think of Thierry Henry, but I was stunned by Ljungberg's. Make no mistake, he is genuinely quick and uses it wisely. Our defenders failed to pick up his runs from midfield because he came from width and at full speed. Henry was pulling out of the hole and Ljungberg was filling it from the flanks. On paper this does not sound an insurmountable problem for a defence, but he is the only player to have made those runs against us this season. And sorry to repeat myself, but he does it at pace. His team-mates know his runs and play the ball accordingly, leaving the defenders flat-footed and frequently blindfolded.
Again on Wednesday he scored with a darting run from the left to meet a threaded pass into the penalty area, and Arsenal went on to win. I think he has scored 14 or 15 goals this season, which is a phenomenal record for a midfield player, however attack-minded.
Part of the reason for this is the attacking style that Arsenal have successfully pursued since August, but for a man who has not played every game, Ljungberg deserves the plaudits. With Arsenal dominant, Manchester United must look to the Champions' League as their best chance of success, and that makes this week's second leg in Germany an absolute corker. Would you bet against them winning, because that is effectively what they have to do?
I have not seen the first leg so cannot comment, but I do know that the most important thing was not the second Leverkusen goal but the return of Roy Keane. He will provide the snapping, snarling presence in midfield that is needed to shackle the German playmaker Michael Ballack as well as ensure discipline and structure in his own team.
I was interviewed by an Irish paper earlier in the week and the journalist's last comment was: "Please don't injure him on Saturday." Rest assured my reply was along the lines of - but less polite than - "What about me? …