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Premier League: Arsenal show familiar failings in life after Unai Emery

Defence is a shambles

Defence is a shambles in Freddie Ljungberg’s first match as interim boss

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Monday, December 2, 2019 - 9:19am
Premier League 
Norwich City 2 Arsenal 2  

Unai Emery may be no more but the chaos remains at Arsenal as the Gunners were held to an action-packed 2-2 draw away at Norwich City. 

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The result means Arsenal’s winless streak now stands at eight matches with their last league victory way back in the first week of October.

Once again, Arsenal’s defence was a shambles with Shkodran Mustafi made to look like a Sunday morning footballer by the pace and guile of the Norwich frontline. 

David Luiz and Callum Chambers also had uncomfortable afternoons, but fortunately for caretaker boss Freddie Ljungberg goalkeeper Bernd Leno was at the top of his game.

Six of the worst

The German stopper pulled off a string of fine saves to ensure that Arsenal left Carrow Road with a point. Nonetheless Arsenal lie eighth in the table and are now winless in six Premier League games, their worst run since August 2011.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice for the Gunners, including a controversial VAR penalty, but the forward’s eye for goal was matched by his defenders eye for the absurd.

Twice they allowed Norwich the freedom of Carrow Road to score, the first from Teemu Pukki and then on the stroke of half-time from Todd Cantwell.

“I am disappointed but I have also seen some positive things,” said Ljungberg. “We started the game really well, that’s how I want to play football. But we need to work on the transitions, we dominated and they break us too easily.”

Video of Freddie Ljungberg reacts to his first game in charge as caretaker manager | Norwich 2-2 Arsenal
Cool on Santo

Sunday’s papers claimed that the Arsenal board have “eased off in their pursuit of Nuno Espirito Santo as manager”, and instead will give Ljungberg the chance to show what he can in charge of the team. 

Wolves boss Santo, Carlo Ancelotti, Mikel Arteta, Masimilliano Allegri, Brendan Rodgers and even Patrick Vieira have been linked to the vacant position in recent days, but the Daily Mail says that Arsenal will let Ljungberg “see what effect he has on the first team and the results he comes up with”.

Rodgers’ rumours

That didn’t prevent Rodgers facing some questions on the rumours linking him to Arsenal after his Leicester City side came from behind on Sunday to beat Everton 2-1. 

“It is all hypothetical - you guys in the media need to write things,” replied Rodgers. “We have more work to do and I am excited about that. So my concentration at the moment is very much with Leicester.”

The size of the challenge facing Ljungberg is enormous, and it would furrow the brow of the most experienced and successful coaches. 

Arsenal’s defence is a bad joke while the midfield is soft and disorganised. The bottom line is there are too many mediocre players in the squad who are content to cruise in the comfort zone that grew in the final years of Arsene Wenger’s reign.

Arsenal interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg

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Reaction to Freddie’s first game in charge

Alan Shearer, The Sun

“If nothing changes, it really wouldn’t surprise me if things get worse at the Emirates before they get better. The biggest issue, and it’s been a problem for years now, is recruitment.” 

Sam Dean, The Daily Telegraph

“There is only so much Freddie Ljungberg can change in two days and Arsenal’s interim head coach will certainly have his work cut out in the coming weeks if he is to find a solution to the persistent sense of chaos that stalks the club’s defenders.” 

Henry Winter, The Times

“Anybody expecting a brave new dawn was naive. Arsenal have structural flaws from top to bottom and a squad with significant shortcomings.” 

Ian Ladyman, Daily Mail

“The Arsenal board have to make the right decision in terms of a replacement. The Arsenal squad is a largely dysfunctional one. Just as it did in Wenger’s later years, it lacks players of real substance and quality.”

Liverpool march on but Klopp is only concerned about Everton

Premier League results 

  • Newcastle United 2 Manchester City 2  
  • Burnley 0 Crystal Palace 2  
  • Chelsea 0 West Ham United 1  
  • Liverpool 2 Brighton & Hove Albion 1  
  • Tottenham Hotspur 3 AFC Bournemouth 2  
  • Southampton 2 Watford 1  
  • Norwich City 2 Arsenal 2  
  • Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Sheffield United 1  
  • Leicester City 2 Everton 1  
  • Manchester United 2 Aston Villa 2

Premier League fixtures 

Tuesday 3 December
  • Crystal Palace vs. AFC Bournemouth (7.30pm, live on Amazon Prime Video) 
  • Burnley vs. Manchester City (8.15pm, live on Amazon Prime Video)
Wednesday 4 December 
  • Chelsea vs. Aston Villa (7.30pm, live on Amazon Prime Video) 
  • Leicester City vs. Watford (7.30pm, live on Amazon Prime Video)  
  • Manchester United vs. Tottenham Hotspur (7.30pm, live on Amazon Prime Video)   
  • Southampton vs. Norwich City (7.30pm, live on Amazon Prime Video)   
  • Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. West Ham United (7.30pm, live on Amazon Prime Video)   
  • Liverpool vs. Everton (8.15pm, live on Amazon Prime Video)  
Thursday 5 December 
  • Sheffield United vs. Newcastle United (7.30pm, live on Amazon Prime Video)
  • Arsenal vs. Brighton & Hove Albion (8.15pm, live on Amazon Prime Video) 

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For analysis of the biggest sport stories - and a concise, balanced take on the week’s news - try The Week magazine. Start your trial today 
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