FREDDIE LJUNGBERG COLUMN

The longest preseason training ever

February 22, 2010
LjungbergBy Freddie Ljungberg
(Archive)

I watched Arsenal lose to Porto 2-1 in their Champions League match Wednesday, and that's what I miss most about Europe: the big games like a Champions League knockout tie or a match against Chelsea or Man United. The atmosphere is electric; everyone's on edge; it really, really matters; and the adrenaline is running really high. Those are the games that I always loved to play, and people say those were my best games.

GettyImages / Juan MirandaFreddie Ljungberg visited his old team Arsenal at the Emirates in December.

I saw on TV that Cesc Fabregas was very disappointed -- he said Arsenal made schoolboy mistakes. I understand his frustration because, at that level, you don't expect to see those kinds of errors, which make it almost impossible to win on the road. Otherwise, I think Arsenal would have had a much better result, and it would have been much easier in the second leg.

I think Arsenal will be very disappointed with the first leg result, but in the end, it's a good score in general to lose 2-1 and have the away goal. If they can win 1-0 at the Emirates, the Gunners are home-free. At the end of the day, I think Arsenal will still make it through.

In the Premier League, I'm excited because Arsenal are now only six points off the lead. After recent losses by Arsenal to both Man United and Chelsea, the Gunners were all but ruled out of the title race. It's never good for your confidence when you want to compete for a trophy and you lose 3-1 to title rivals like Man United. However, with both Chelsea and Man United faltering themselves recently, the race is wide-open again.

As an Arsenal man, I'm hoping the other teams will continue to slip up again. Arsenal has an easier month of games coming up, so perhaps the gap will narrow further.

With the Sounders, we are in Spain right now in what has become the longest preseason I've ever played in. At Arsenal we typically trained for three to four weeks and then we played. We are training for about seven to eight weeks with the Sounders, so it's hard to determine how hard to train and how hard to push myself. I talk a lot to the fitness coaches about how to plan that.

On the field, we have some unfortunate injuries to some key players, but I hope they can be back at the start of the season. In MLS, that becomes difficult because of the salary cap. When you lose some of your starters, you can't just replace them with new players.

Before coming to Spain, we were in Arizona for nine days before making a 27-hour journey to Europe that, from boarding the plane to arriving at the hotel, was the longest trip I've ever taken! But we're working hard and we're getting fit.

Compared to the teams that are here in Spain, we're pretty unfit. It's early in our preparations, so it's going to be difficult for us in the games, which is a pity. I would have loved to come here and show what type of team we have when we're in full flow. I think that's something that the Europeans need to see. It just comes too early for us to show how good we are.

I remember, during one year with Arsenal, we played an afternoon game at a tournament in Amsterdam against Barcelona. The day before and earlier that day we ran and worked in the gym so much that we couldn't move, and Barcelona beat us 3-0. We were all upset because the game was televised all over Europe and we were making fools out of ourselves. But our coach told us it was the Premier League that matters, not the preseason, and that the result didn't matter too much. It's good to get fit in preseason games -- the quality will come later.

We will be in Spain until Saturday, when we go back to Seattle. It will be nice to finally get back to living a normal life.

It's been a great trip. See you at my own blog.

Freddie Ljungberg is a midfielder with the Seattle Sounders. He also formerly played for Arsenal in the English Premiership and the Swedish national team. He writes daily at his own blog, www.freddie.speaksup.com.