Freddie Ljungberg has revealed how Bukayo Saka did the “extra little things” required to break into the Arsenal first team when they worked together at the club.
Ljungberg was brought to Arsenal as an assistant coach while Saka was coming out of the academy.
The former Swedish winger managed the Under-23s before being promoted to the first team coaching set-up under former boss Unai Emery.
Ljungberg amicably departed at club after the arrival of Mikel Arteta in order to continue to pursue his own coaching career, but he worked extensively with Saka and Arsenal’s other young players during his time with the club.
And speaking as a pundit on Sky Sports ahead of Sunday’s north London derby, Ljungberg praised Saka’s attitude for being extremely eager to learn during his younger years.
“He’s been with Arsenal his whole life, he loves the club, he knows what it means,” Ljungberg said.
“I’m so happy every time he does well because he deserves it, he works so hard every day.
“I think he was 15 when I started coaching him. It’s been a pleasure. He came and asked me questions all the time, if there was something he knows that he can’t really do, he wouldn’t be scared or shy away from it, whereas some players do.
“He’d come and practice that little bit extra, ‘Can you show me some clips of what I’m doing wrong?’ and stuff like that. He’s very, very clever.
“He trains really well. I had this chat with him when he was really young and told him that’s what he needed to do to become a top player.
“Since that day, he’s worked so hard, you almost have to tell him to calm down a little bit if we have a game. Pleasure to be the coach of a player like that.”
Meanwhile, Jamie Redknapp admitted that Arsenal’s struggles this season may have helped Saka, who has been offered more first-team opportunities as a result of the lacklustre quality in the squad.
“It maybe helps, and this isn’t being disrespectful to the players, but he’s been in a team that has been struggling of late. If he had been around ‘the Invincibles’ then it would have been harder for him to get in the team,” Redknapp explained.
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“The fact that the team isn’t doing so well, it was the same with me when I broke in at Liverpool, the team wasn’t doing so well because we were going through a transitional period.
“So he’s got in on his own merit and now he’s leading the way, alongside Emile Smith Rowe – some really talented young players – they’ve brought in Odegaard as well.
“So I think that’s been one of the benefits of the team not doing so well, the young players getting opportunities.”