Wolfsburg hire Arsenal academy chief Andries Jonker as new coach

Wolfsburg have hired Arsenal's academy head Andries Jonker as their new coach on a contract that runs until 2018, with former Gunners star Fredrik Ljungberg appointed as part of the Bundesliga club's coaching staff.

Jonker replaces Valerien Ismael, who was fired on Sunday after a 2-1 home loss to Werder Bremen left them only two points above the relegation zone. Die Wolfe, DFB Pokal winners in 2015, have picked up only 22 points from their first 22 league games, and face a battle against the drop.

"This is a great opportunity for Andries and we wish him every future success," Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis said in a statement. "Under Andries' guidance, we have made huge progress in our academy operations.

"Arsenal is known around the world for its development of young players and we are confident we will find the right person to continue to lead our progress."

The 41-year-old Ismael, formerly Wolfsburg's under-23 coach, was given the job at first on an interim basis after predecessor Dieter Hecking -- now at Borussia Monchengladbach -- was fired seven league games into the season. Ismael gained the job on a permanent basis when no other candidates were found.

Ismael, who took over on Oct. 17, managed only five victories in 15 league games with nine defeats.

Jonker was an assistant at Wolfsburg before taking over Arsenal's academy in 2014, where he replaced Liam Brady. He has previously served as an assistant to fellow Dutchman Louis van Gaal at Bayern Munich, where he also served as the caretaker manager for a brief spell in 2011.

The 54-year-old returns to the club where he worked under Felix Magath and Lorenz-Gunther Kostner.

"Andries Jonkers knows VfL Wolfsburg, and kept in regular contract following his move to London," the club's sporting director Olaf Rebbe said on the club's official website. "Both aspects played a role in the fact that we were able to achieve a top solution. He's a coach with international experience, and a renowned tactics expert, who has all pre-conditions to lead VfL back on track soon and sustainable."

At his first news conference as Wolfsburg coach later on Monday, Jonker said he was a little surprised to be offered the post.

"I always kept contact with the players, with [former coach] Dieter Hecking and Olaf Rebbe. The approach came as a surprise," Jonker said. "I never expected to be Wolfsburg's main candidate." "They did not allow me any time. Most of it happened yesterday. It was decision I had to make within hours."

On Ljungberg's appointment as one of the assistant coaches, Jonker added: "I found out Freddie's really interested in the individual development of the players."

"I need someone in my staff whose interested in the players, and he can show, and the players believe in him."

At Arsenal, Jonker has overseen a massive redevelopment of the club's Hale End academy that is close to completion, and used his connections in the Netherlands to send a host of players on loan there.

This season both Kelechi Nwakali and Stefan O'Connor are playing at MVV Maastricht, where Jonker was the manager between 2004-06, with another four academy players on loan at Dutch clubs.

He has also seen the rise of academy players like Alex Iwobi and Hector Bellerin, who have become first-team regulars since Jonker joined the club, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Jeff Reine-Adelaide also getting playing time under Arsene Wenger this season.

However, the results for Arsenal's youth teams have been patchy as the U18s were knocked out of the FA Youth Cup by Blackburn Rovers in the third round this season while the U23s have been wildly inconsistent with eight wins and eight losses in 17 games.

"I have had a wonderful three years at Arsenal. We have made significant progress and it has been great to be part of a club which puts such an emphasis on developing young players through its academy," Jonker said in a statement. "There are some top young players in the Arsenal academy. I look forward to seeing them progress their careers."

ESPN FC's Germany correspondent Stephan Uersfeld contributed to this report