Liverpool assistant coach Pep Leenders has revealed that Mikel Arteta tried to lure him away from Anfield when he first took charge of Arsenal.
In need of building a squad behind the scenes at short notice in December 2019, the Spaniard tried to cash in on the Dutchman after being impressed with his work at Anfield. The two initially met in 2017 while studying for a UEFA Pro license with Welsh FA.
Recalling the approach in his new book, Density, Linders said: “Mikel Arteta asked me to be his assistant manager as he prepared for his new step in management.
“We were together years ago on the Pro License course, [though] His order came from nothing. Mikel said he felt: “There was only a difference in playing with Liverpool before and after you came in.”
“That was the biggest compliment I’ve ever received from someone, I think, but I politely told him no.”
Lijnders, currently on his second spell with Liverpool after initially joining during Brendan Rodgers’ tenure, has been an integral part of the Reds’ recent success both at home and in Europe.
While Lijnders turned down a move, another group of Dragon Park from 2017 accepted a role under Arteta. Freddy Ljungberg, who was already at Arsenal as an assistant to Unai Emery, and then, when the Spaniard was sacked, the one-year interim coach was incorporated alongside new faces Steve Round and Albert Stauffenberg.
The last pair have been in constant presence in the dugout at the Emirates Stadium ever since.
Arteta’s other assistants include Miguel Molina and Carlos Cuesta, goalkeeper coach Inaki Cana Pavon and set-piece maestro Nicolas Joffre, who replaced Andreas Jorgson this time last year.
It’s not clear at this point if anyone will replace Chad Forsyth who recently left his role as chief performance after eight years at the club.
Arsenal are also without a head to perform at the academy after Toni Strudwick, who replaced de Rahn in 2021, left to join West Bromwich as director of medical services.