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Ljungberg on being new permanent Arsenal boss: ‘We will see’

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Freddie Ljungberg, with or without his red hair, would not be upset to get the Arsenal job on a permanent basis.

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That is the vibe surrounding the Swedish national team legend, who has being speaking to the media ahead of his first game in charge against Norwich City (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) after he stepped in on a caretaker basis following Unai Emery‘s firing on Thursday.

Asked if he wants to get the Gunners job on a permanent basis, Ljungberg was coy and wanted to keep the focus on the club he won two Premier League titles and three FA Cups with.

“It’s a great, great honor. I want to do as well as I can for this fantastic club and that’s what I feel today. I feel excitement and I’ll try to do a good job,” Ljungberg said. “For the moment it’s for the future of the football club. I’m here to help the club as much as I possibly can and try to get a good atmosphere around the club and with the supporters and that’s what I’m focusing on at the moment and then we’ll see [on getting the job on a permanent basis].”

Per Mertescaker will assist Ljungberg on Sunday at Norwich with Robert Pirers around too.

The Gunners are eight points off the top four heading into this weekend and the Swedish legend wants to put a smile back on the face of the Arsenal players and fans after a gruelling last few months under Emery, who didn’t know his best team and there has been a total lack of identity over the last 18 months.

Ljungberg has been the coach of Arsenal’s U23 side this season and they’ve scored 48 goals in 22 games. Asked what Arsenal’s fans should expect from his team, it appears he will take an attack-minded approach which slots in with being connected to the Gunners for the last 20 years.

“I’ve been at Arsenal for a long, long, long time, I like entertaining football but of course at the same time you can’t concede goals. That’s a tricky balance to find. For me, happy footballers play the best football,” Ljungberg said. “That’s a part I learnt as a player, there is a time to work hard but at the same time we need to enjoy what we’re doing. Often the players we have enjoy playing offensive football which makes them happy.”

It is clear Ljungberg wants the job, but with Mikel Arteta, Max Allegri, Carlo Ancelotti, Brendan Rodgers and Patrick Vieira all linked with the position, it seems unlikely he will be given the job on a permanent basis.

However, if the Swede gets off to a flying start it could be another situation similar to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United. Ljungberg knows the current crop of Arsenal youngsters very well and that is in his favor too, and the fans love him… even if he doesn’t have red hair anymore.

Who are the favorites to replace Emery at Arsenal?

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Following news of Unai Emery’s firing as Arsenal manager, the club announced that its search for a new manager is already underway.

[ MORE: Unai Emery fired by Arsenal ]

With the Gunners set to face Norwich City in Premier League action on Sunday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com), interim manager Freddie Ljungberg is almost certain to take charge of at least one game before Emery’s successor takes the reins.

According to reports, Arsenal had previously contacted Jose Mourinho as a potential replacement for Emery, in the event they decided to make a change. Following Mourinho’s appointment as new Tottenham Hotspur boss a week ago, some figures at Arsenal are said to be upset at missing out on the Portuguese.

[ MORE: Emery: “We are better than we are showing” ]

Below is a look at the current bookmakers’ favorites to replace Emery at Arsenal, listed in the order of who is favorite.

  • Massimiliano Allegri (unemployed) – The clear-cut favorite, at almost even odds. The thinking here would be that Allegri is a proven winner (five Serie A titles and four Italian Cups at Juventus), but so was Emery when he was hired (three straight Europa League titles). He’s been out of a job since leaving Juve at the end of last season and has been linked with every major managerial job since then.
  • Nuno Espirito Santo (Wolverhampton Wanderers) – Unlike Allegri, Santo is a proven PL manager, only he comes without the same (read: any) winning pedigree of the Italian. After guiding Wolves to the EFL Championship title in 2018, he then took them to a seventh-place finish (and UEL qualification) in the PL last season.
  • Mikel Arteta (Manchester City, assistant) – Previously an Arsenal player (2011-2016) and now an assistant under Pep Guardiola, Arteta has been linked with a number of high-profile jobs in the last two years, including Arsenal back when Emery was hired. For him, it’ll likely hinge upon the succession plan at Man City: Guardiola never stays at one club for too long, so does Arteta believe he’ll be given a chance to take over?
  • Mauricio Pochettino (unemployed) – Pochettino has long since claimed he will never manage two clubs — Barcelona and Arsenal — out of principle after managing rivals Espanyol and Tottenham Hotspur. Alas, the bookmakers can’t help themselves from stirring the pot in north London.
  • Rafael Benitez  (Dalian Yifang) – Potentially a very sensible, if slightly underwhelming, option. Reports have him leaving China very soon, at the end of the Chinese Super League season. If nothing else, Benitez would get Arsenal defending and make them highly functional, if lacking the kind of flair that fans have come to expect.
  • Carlo Ancelotti (Napoli) – Somewhat out of left field, but potentially available for no compensation after a rough start to his second season at Napoli (seventh place, 15 points back of leaders Juve).
  • Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) – Forever tabbed a long-odds option, because the bookmakers need an English name to add to the list.

Report: Van Bronckhorst to take NYCFC job as Man City pre-test

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Giovanni van Bronckorst is going to get a sort of Man City dress rehearsal in Major League Soccer.

On the heels of a September report that Van Bronckhorst was being eased into City Football Group with an “all-access pass” to Pep Guardiola, The Daily Mirror has issued a new one.

[ MORE: 1-on-1 with Claudio Reyna ]

Van Bronckhorst has been familiarizing himself with all of City Football Group’s clubs, the report says, and will take hold of New York City FC under old friend Claudio Reyna with a view to a bigger job within the company.

Sources in Holland insist that Van Bronkhorst would be unlikely to accept the New York job if there was no plan for him to eventually move into a more prominent role inside the CFG.

He has Champions League experience and has a number of close friends inside the group, including former Rangers team-mate Claudio Reyna, who is New York’s director of football.

The idea is that Van Bronckhorst is of very similar mind to Pep Guardiola, and that Man City wants to keep the same style of football once the Catalan genius decides to leave Manchester.

Here’s the only odd note of that report, assuming that Van Bronckhorst brings the A-game that saw him win the Eredivisie and two KNVB Cups with Feyenoord: This appointment seemingly presumes that Mikel Arteta is not considered first choice to replace Guardiola when he leaves town (although perhaps Arteta has told the club he’ll be looking for a first chair job before Pep skips town, or has been told he needs first chair experience to be under consideration for the gig).

Guardiola is contracted through 2022, and it’s reasonable to think he could leave early if the side wins its first Champions League or comes back to claim the Premier League’s first league three-peat since Manchester United turned the trick in 2009.

Report: Granit Xhaka named permanent Arsenal captain

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According to a report by David Ornstein of the BBC, Arsenal coach Unai Emery has named midfielder Granit Xhaka as permanent captain, a position that had been vacant since Laurent Koscielny‘s departure this summer.

The Frenchman had held the position since early 2016 when handed the armband by Arsene Wenger with Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta both in the twilight of their Arsenal careers.

Emery has notably dragged out deciding on who to name as permanent captain despite handing Xhaka the armband in six of their eight matches to this point. Nacho Monreal and Mesut Ozil have also both served as captain once, both coming with Xhaka out of the lineup, although Monreal has since departed the club. Ornstein reports that a vice-captain has not yet been chosen, with strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette both in consideration.

Xhaka, who turns 27 years old today, is considered to be a contentious choice by Emery given his up and down performances for the club since joining from Borussia Monchengladbach in the summer of 2016. His first season was dreadful, with the midfielder twice sent off in his first season of Premier League play. He had raised his level of performance since, proving an important piece of the puzzle last season, but early this season his performances have again dipped, with Gunner fans voicing their displeasure on his withdrawal on 72 minutes in the narrow win over Aston Villa.

Defender Rob Holding confirmed after the Villa win that Emery has presented a group of five players to the rest of the squad to be voted on. “He likes his five captains,” Holding said. “We all did a vote the other week so we’ll see what happens and see who gets named. It was just a case of writing names down and then giving them to the manager and he will go through them – obviously with his input – and we’ll see what happens.”

Holding called it a “good environment” with a lot of players able to “get more input.” He also pointed out David Luiz as someone who has taken up a sort of leadership role.

Ranieri, Van Bronckhorst reportedly eyeing up Newcastle opening

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Newcastle United’s soon-to-be vacant manager’s seat will be filled quickly, and there’s plenty of interest in the position.

While Jose Mourinho isn’t interested in being at the helm of a team which will not challenge for silverware, others believe Newcastle can be a place of success and want to take over for out-of-contract Rafa Benitez.

Sky Sports say that Claudio Ranieri is interested in making Newcastle his fourth Premier League job, having led Chelsea, Leicester City, and Fulham.

[ MORE: Norwich adds Drmic ]

Ranieri finished the season with Roma following his dismissal from Fulham, where he was one of three managers to fail in a bid to keep the Cottagers in the Premier League.

And Sky also says that Giovanni van Bronckhorst is intrigued by the idea of Northeast England. The 44-year-old Dutch centurion managed boyhood club Feyenoord from 2015-19, leading the club to two KNVB Cups and its first Eredivisie title in 18 years.

Gennaro Gattuso continues to be mentioned as a possibility, and the oddsmakers seem to think ex-Swansea boss Garry Monk, veteran manager David Moyes, and Man City assistant Mikel Arteta are the favorites for the job.