Freddie Ljungberg insists his Arsenal side will committed to playing
attacking, progressive football. The club legend who take charge of
his first match since being appointed as interim manager at Norwich on
Sunday following the sacking of Unai Emery.
Arsenal’s board gave Emery his marching orders on Friday following a
shambolic defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday with the
Gunners having won just once in their last nine matches. While results
were deemed unacceptable, Arsenal fans had also grown tired of the
Spaniard’s negative tactics, constant tinkering and baffling team
Record signing Nicolas Pepe and star striker Alexandre Lacazette were
both left on the bench on Thursday with Arsenal desperately searching
for an equalsie
Both looked distraught and disinterested marooned on the bench and
Ljungberg admits he needs to find a way to energise his squad in order
to unlock its full potential.
‘I’ve been at Arsenal for a long, long time I like entertaining
football, he told Arsenal’s official website. ‘Of course, at the same
time you can’t conceded goals that’s the tricky balance to find.
‘For me happy footballers play the best football. That’s what I
learned as a player. There is a time to work hard but at the same we
must enjoy what we are doing. ‘Often if the players we have they enjoy
playing offensive football it will make them more happy.’
…as Arsenal hit back to draw at Norwich in Ljungberg’s first game
Freddie Ljungberg smiled as he took his seat in the dugout and, after
vacating it, might have been excused a roll of the eyes. Arsenal
responded to their new interim head coach’s presence, equalising twice
through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and, at least for a time, showing a
greater appetite to play on the front foot than in the latter days of
Unai Emery’s reign.
But the major takeaway for Ljungberg will be that he has a huge job on
his hands to turn things around. Norwich, who scored through Teemu
Pukki and Todd Cantwell, would have won the game had it not been for
some brilliant goalkeeping from Bernd Leno in the last half-hour and
were aggrieved at the twice-taken penalty that brought Arsenal’s first
By the end Arsenal were largely clinging on and the sense is that,
much more than a new manager, they will need better players in order
to improve significantly.
Ljungberg had promised not to “just go and smash things up“ on being
given the keys to Arsenal’s china shop but his selection contained
noteworthy tweaks. Shkodran Mustafi, once been ushered towards the
exit door by Emery, was given his first league action of the season
while Joe Willock, a protege from the Ljungberg’s academy-coaching
days, started in midfield.
Granit Xhaka, his reintroduction against Eintracht Frankfurt rendered
a footnote by the furore surrounding Emery, also began in the centre.
Aubameyang and Mesut Özil played either side of Alexandre Lacazette
and one of the questions, as the teams lined up, was whether this
blend could create the “happy footballers” Ljungberg believes are
integral to success.
By half-time the emotions were more complicated and, if nothing else,
what unfolded was confirmation that Ljungberg will not be able to
change the fundamentals overnight.
Arsenal had begun as if determined to shed the old regime’s shackles,
taking the initiative and counting themselves unlucky not to lead
within 10 minutes. It only took three for Lacazette, not quite
striking the ball cleanly, to force a one-handed stop from Tim Krul as
the ball threatened to bobble in. Shortly afterwards Mustafi beat Krul
to a corner only for Onel Hernández to head off the line.
For a while the direction of travel was more or less one-way. Arsenal,
moving the ball quickly and smartly, oozed purpose and came close
again when Max Aarons did well to charge down an effort from Sead
Kolasinac. Krul tipped away a Calum Chambers header, although the ball
was heading across goal, and at that point Norwich’s sorties had
generally involved a sole attacker marauding into the Arsenal back
line’s clutches with little support.