This juggernaut heading the wrong way down the highway is not going to change direction easily

Online Editorial: New manager bounce not wholly convincing in draw at Norwich

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All change? It'll take time

Freddie Ljungberg, in his opening match in charge of Arsenal’s first team, put the cat amongst the pigeons with his selection, although injuries did limit his options. Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin were unavailable, so in choosing to play a back four, the Swede’s options were limited to two from Luiz, Sokratis, Mustafi and Chambers. The continued absence of Bellerin meant Chambers remained on the right side of the backline, and Sokratis was sacrificed for Mustafi. Frankly, whoever was picked has been guilty of errors before, although the German has a longer history than others.

The formation was 4-2-1-3, and it was interesting to see Ozil as a wide attacker with Joe Willock in what we know as the ‘Ozil position’. Arsenal started well, dominating possession, territory and goal attempts. There did seem more purpose about the attacks. However, after 21 minutes, Norwich scored on the break, via a deflection off Mustafi. The real culprit though was David Luiz, who did not get close enough to scorer Pukki to block his shot. As the months pass, the decision to bring in Luiz, forced by Laurent Koscielny downing tools, looks more and more like a poor one.

The question at this point was how the players would react. Fortunately, heads did not drop and they continued the pressure, leading to the twice taken penalty for handball. Aubameyang’s first effort was appalling, but he redeemed himself with the re-take for encroachment. For once, VAR favoured Arsenal.

There were too many times when a player had the chance of a shot within the area, but chose to pass the ball, with a move often breaking down. Xhaka was guilty of this for one chance created by his own pressing. It’s like too many of the players are almost afraid to take responsibility. But a good shot on target can often lead to a team-mate cleaning up on any parry off the keeper.

Norwich took the lead again in first half injury time, once again on the counter attack, with Chambers caught out of position. The player is a willing trier, but he’s no right back. His passing into the area when he went forward was dreadful, rarely beating the first man and if it did, not reaching a team-mate. Norwich played around what was left of the defence and Cantwell finished coolly.

Still, Arsenal had a whole 45 minutes to make good after some instruction in the dressing room. Truth to tell, not too much changed, although at least an equalizer came from a corner before the hour, courtesy of Aubameyang, leaving plenty of time to score the extra goal that would give a much-needed three points.

As it was, Bernd Leno got his team out of jail more than once with some excellent last ditch saves, and was unquestionably his side's standout performer. The other player that made a big impression was Lucas Torreira in the 20 minutes he was on the pitch. He has to start the next game, ahead of any one of the three midfielders who started this one.

Freddie stayed loyal to the players he managed at under 23 level by putting Saka on ahead of Pepe. In truth, the situation at the club at present probably demands experience rather than youth, but the whole thing is a mess, a disparate bunch of players crying out for organization and drilling. Ljungberg has had one session with those he used yesterday, so it’s too early to know whether he will be able to do what is required. There did seem to be more motivation in the players to win the ball back, but they gave it away too cheaply too often, something that has become all too familiar and inevitably leads to questions about the quality of the current squad. The basics of possession football should not be beyond them given what they are earning.

A point away from home is progress of sorts, given Arsenal lost their previous two Premier League matches on the road in Sheffield and Leicester, but single points are generally only good for avoiding relegation, unless you are drawing with teams that you are trying to deny points to. It should be remembered that Norwich are 19th in the division, having lost four of their six home fixtures before the visit of the Gunners. Regardless of who is picking the team, a club of Arsenal’s ambition should be picking up wins against this level of opposition as a matter of course.

It’s too early to say Freddie is not going to work out, but one thing is undeniable. Whether it is he or another coach that has to improve this team, there is a hell of a lot of work to do. There are too many of the squad in the midfield and defensive positions who are unlikely to improve enough, whoever is trying to get shot of bad ingrained habits (or improve a basic lack of quality), and yesterday confirmed that the club are going to have to get clever in the next two transfer windows. Given that Arsenal are struggling financially under the weight of their wage bill, this is no easy task, and may be the reason that the club end up going for an uncertain option like Mikel Arteta, on the basis that he can improve the players that he has to work with individually. Because you cannot see the likes of a proven manager really fancying working with what Arsenal have, and what Arsenal can afford.

If for no other reason than the reality this is not going to turnaround quickly, I am afraid that to me this feels like another fag end of a season already, and that’s no reflection on the interim head coach.


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  1. Suker

    Dec 17, 2019, 19:39 #115869

    What do Bernd Leno & Jimmy Rimmer have in common?

  2. markymark

    Dec 5, 2019, 07:33 #115713

    Goonhogday - you do raise a valid point , I’ve also heard this on other sites as well about Kroenke being stretched with the Rams. It would take a big cash squeeze for him to shift I reckon as a financially liquid company would have no reason to sell the Arsenal cash machine. Arsenal would suffer in the meantime but it could the sale on the agenda. My thoughts are it’s little more than 10% at the moment but you never know. Events can occur to change perspective

  3. Cyril

    Dec 4, 2019, 21:39 #115712

    No to Nuno

  4. itsRonagain2

    Dec 4, 2019, 16:43 #115711

    Paul - absolutely right there. Could it yet come to pass that the unthinkable could well happen and that the annals of AFC history is to be besmirched once and for all time, yes, ......................... the SOS call to emerge from his holiday haven in Spain to the biggest, fattest Mr Sam Allardyce to take the reins? Its how far we ve fallen that the thought of this heresy seems to actually now make sense!!!

  5. Goonhogday

    Dec 4, 2019, 15:54 #115710

    I really hope Freddie succeeds at the moment as I fear our board/owners will stuff the next appointment. I’m not sure if our owners can do a Glazer’s with Arsenal but a quick google of the stadium problems for the LA Rams makes me wonder if they need additional funds. Perhaps our owners have spread themselves too thin with all their sporting enterprises at the moment? Who knows but a club like Arsenal needs a custodianship type owner who’s more hands on and occasionally communicates with its fanbase without being prompted by poor results and low attendances.

  6. markymark

    Dec 4, 2019, 15:24 #115709

    Ron I’m feeling so concerned for Arsenal’s finances I’ve the hand down the sofa right now, any cash will do lol

  7. Pauljames

    Dec 4, 2019, 14:45 #115708

    The board must be praying hard that Freddie gets a couple of results pronto because I’m not exactly sure where we go with this if he doesn’t. It’s obvious they have not lined up a replacement so what are they going to do if we are bottom 8 after Christmas? Freddie’s position will be untenable and we’ll have to appoint whoever is willing and available at the time just to steer us clear of relegation trouble. In short, this is an utter mess.

  8. John F

    Dec 4, 2019, 13:23 #115707

    I looked him up Mark and he was highly regarded by fans and players but I also read his English is not very good. Is it the FFP rules that are restricting the money available? if so the board may wait until January to see which of the rumoured want away players they can flog off before they can appoint someone.

  9. itsRonagain2

    Dec 4, 2019, 12:52 #115706

    All good sounding then Marky, apart from ' playing to their strengths'.Thats dangerous with us mate! Playing to some of ours strengths means domesday!!.

  10. markymark

    Dec 4, 2019, 11:43 #115705

    I’ve been taking a quick look at Marcelino who admittedly I thought no.... not a carbon copy of Unai. But to summise . He’s not into expansive, football apparently defensively organised (goals conceded 35, only bettered by Athletico) , stubborn , does play with a recognisable style , has very fit teams , plays to their strengths and looks to cover team weakness with tactics . He inspires loyalty despite having cleared teams out. Peter Lim sacked him and ten got called out on social media by a number of his players. Could be good but could also leave after a massive bust up with club hierarchy . Sounds interesting . I reckon he wouldn’t get a gig at Barca or Real as they are too purist . We of course went that way but might need to have a rethink

  11. itsRonagain2

    Dec 4, 2019, 11:38 #115704

    How can they have no money? Its as barmy a notion as its laughable. Lads, it was always the owner there, not Wengo so much and certainly not all Dick. Hes the real fly in the ointment at Arsenal and always has been. I think Marky is right and Maureen was approached and had the price have been right, he d may be there now. Is it good that he isnt? Probably, though that club needs a cynical piece of work in there and that was my rationale for saying that we needed him. It for sure wasn't out of any affection for the guy. Only good guys need apply to AFC though, ready to join the relaxed social club and to nod the head, tip the cap to Kroenke etc etc. Nothing else will do.

  12. Radfordkennedy

    Dec 4, 2019, 11:23 #115703

    More importantly Freddie...anyone of us on here are available to fu#kin' talk to!

  13. markymark

    Dec 4, 2019, 11:21 #115702

    I have to say that I’m very cynical about this broke business. It seems to get trumpeted whenever we have a big spend coming up. At one point Josh was saying we would buy in the Jan window ( probably won’t now ) but that would have suggested an odd 30m or so knocking around. This would be the rough cost of a new manager with contract clause plus payoff for Unai. I just wonder if it’s code for don’t ask for 10m a year. Note that Raul probably did speak with Maureen and Raul would know Maureen doesn’t come cheap. Anyway sorry to hear the Bank of England Club is so impoverished particularly with the ground being top 5 highest grossing arena’s in the world and a large proportion of staff on zero hours. It’s going to be a bleak Christmas at the Emirates this year.


    Dec 4, 2019, 10:48 #115701

    Yep Bard - no money! Obviously we went for the wrong sort of billionaire - either a pretend one or a bloke who is simply dis-interested. Today's management link MARCELINO, a person that most of us are unaware of, has unimpressive win stats, dodgy english (again!), an even higher risk than Dick but SO highly regarded &, most importantly, would be CHEAP! Will log off now before I descend into a torrent of foul expletives for which the Editor will rightly bar me from the site.

  15. Bard

    Dec 4, 2019, 09:04 #115700

    Spot on Tony. We are watching our club sink slowly but surely into midtable obscurity. The worst of it is we are broke, so dont have the money to finance the necessary rebuild or pay a top manager. Add in the fact that we may well lose our two strikers at the end of the season and it looks a bleak outlook.

  16. TonyEvans

    Dec 4, 2019, 07:09 #115699

    Just read that Wenger ‘is available’ to talk to Freddie if required so everything will be alright now! Seriously, whoever gets the nod eventually has a hell of a job on their hands - a major rebuild required for me and not just a case of getting more out of existing players because let’s face it most of them are not up to it.

  17. itsRonagain2

    Dec 3, 2019, 20:13 #115698

    Marky. Hi mate. Oh. See where you are with Carlo then. Yes. A good 3 yr appt. it’s jtst his age that’s an issue really. Napoli are a mess. They always are a mess to be honest. They’ve just moved the mess level higher up their spectrum. It’s a hyper club. Never far from chaos. Agree Arteta. Felt all along it’s him. I don’t find it or him inspiring at all Marky. He cd surprise us I guess but to me he just seems a convenient side step appointment that avoids boats being rocked.

  18. markymark

    Dec 3, 2019, 18:51 #115697

    Ron - I agree though Arteta is looking most likely.

  19. markymark

    Dec 3, 2019, 18:49 #115696

    Ron you misunderstood me , he wouldn’t be short term he’d be doing the same 3 year contract as anyone else. It’s now more unusual for coaches to run beyond 3 years anyway. It’s a moot point over whether Carlo would do 3 years with us. I’m not sure. Are Napoli playing better football currently than us? This season I’d say so. Are Napoli a bigger power house than Arsenal ? Have to say no to that Is Ancelotti having a lot of issues at Napoli? Yes they’ve got player strikes , Ultras breaking into players homes and a hated President who puts Kroenke in the shade. We’ve probably more than a Cats chance of getting him. Probably Benitez might be easiest if Arsenal want to go steady rather than completely go radical.

  20. itsRonagain2

    Dec 3, 2019, 14:56 #115695

    Arteta will be rightly wary of Arsenal too. If they approach him they ll have to offer the gig to him. It appears he thought they were giving it to him last time until Gazadis shafted him for Dick. He ll quite rightly treat Arsenal with suspicion once approached despite the IG having long since gone off to help screw up AC.

  21. itsRonagain2

    Dec 3, 2019, 14:50 #115694

    This i AFC we re taking about. Not a cats chance are they going to pay a man like Ancellotti to hold the fort until they decide who they want. 1 he s not cheap as hes top calibre and 2 why would he demean himself by taking a short term fixer role working to develop things for a lesser Coach, while taking on that shambles with a fan base who would be expecting miracles quickly? The Arteta thing is the only rumour thats got legs i think, unless they make an offer thats so big to Rodgers that he feels he has to take, risking the stick that he ll get. They ll think Arteta will be becalm the dressing room, he has familiarity with the club, wont ask for too much cash as he has no pedigree, but most of all, he ll be another 'comfortable' cardigan for the club to wear alongside he friend Per who ll be the cosy slippers. Unless the pull of Everton beats them to it IF they dispense with Silva.

  22. markymark

    Dec 3, 2019, 14:24 #115693

    CG - I’d personally go with a stabilisation manager . At first we thought Emery had this brief but panic infected his thought process . I mean Chelsea away 1st game was passable , Chelsea at home was actually very good followed by Baku where he literally didn’t have a clue how to fix it. A steadying Carlo followed by an expansive manager would do for me. I’m worried that Arteta might try and work the genius of Man City all season with the team and maybe get one good performance. It really is back to basics time I think


    Dec 3, 2019, 10:33 #115692

    A positive thought for a change from your Cornwall correspondent - might Carlo A ( 60) be a safe pair of hands with Freddie reverting to an Arteta type role work? Carlo's CV overall is mighty impressive & he is a more dignified & likeable personality than, say, Allegri & Maureen but also a serial winner. But I expect more dither & delay.

  24. Cyril

    Dec 3, 2019, 09:23 #115691

    It’s got a feeling of Brewsters Millions about it all. The elderly board slowly going dotty allowing a relative to a spunk millions before getting the real prize. Sadly, the major prize is a long way off. For ref: the grandad had passed in the film and I wouldn’t wish anyone dead.

  25. itsRonagain2

    Dec 3, 2019, 00:11 #115690

    I meant to mention too that one of them experienced flops brought in after project youth is now sitting there by Llungberg having been charged with clearing up the whole sorry mess that he had. Big part in creating. The club is a f——-g joke. It truly is. If Arsenal’s Board ever ran the BMA they hire Harold Shipman to tidy up the GP s ethical standards.

  26. itsRonagain2

    Dec 2, 2019, 23:55 #115689

    He seemed to pick a team thinking experience is the route out of a mess. The problem at Arsenal is that it’s the experienced heads who’ve let the side down for years, well before Dick too. Most of the experience there has been drafted in after 2011 when it dawned that project youth had died a death and the trolley dash cimmenced. We did have such as Silves tee slightly before I know but the older heads all brought in have been largely poor. The middle has been equally as bad tho. No proper middle for yrs. check Cantwells goal for the second. You could have landed a jumbo jet in the room he had to take the ball and measure up his shot. Clueless. Chambers looked good at Fulham as that’s his level. Holding also. Many defenders are far better than him in the Championship. As you say that jobs a big bugger. Llungbergs not going so much. He’s a game lad but he s not going to get better in January and I m not sure he ll improve in Dicks performance. Dick alone wasn’t the trouble on his own there. May as well have left him in situ till May as sacked him with no alternative.


    Dec 2, 2019, 19:03 #115688

    It's only his first game & Freddie does seem like a good guy BUT second half hopeless & the starting eleven & substitution scenarios were just the same old, same old. Pepe, who the msm have decided is a one-footed waste of space must be wanting to get the hell out of here. If Fred has training issues with him ( hardly surprising if he lacks motivation) then challenge him to do his stuff in an actual match. He is very fast ( not sure about Auba's pace anymore) but gets no service when he does play &, as we know takes a mean free kick. Sunday absolutely demonstrated the need for a top drawer, strong, egotistical bastard to take over - like Arthur was before he lost the plot. I was very amused to read that Allegri when interviewed last time challenged the Board to tell him WHY HE SHOULD JOIN US? Tough question & that's the sort of bloke we need. Won't happen under Stanley & Co. though will it!

  28. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Dec 2, 2019, 16:59 #115687

    The problem now is there are no "basics" to get back to, no one at the club really knows how to drill a defence any more.

  29. Ernie71

    Dec 2, 2019, 13:40 #115686

    I think the team selection showed the players still run the dressing room. The groan in the pub i was in when the team was announced summed up what a disappointment the line up was. Xhaka and Mustafi should never play for Arsenal again. We have 3 years of evidence to prove it. Chambers is a poor footballer he aint gonna get better. Luiz got away with his mistakes at Chelsea because of Terry and Cahill he hasnt got a quality CB to cover up for him at Arsenal.The real question is why didnt the board have anyone lined up to come in when Emery was finally sacked.We really do have the worst board in football.They take forever to sack a useless manager but dont have a clue who to replace him with.We lost out on Klopp in 2015 because we stayed loyal with Clueless Wenger now it looks like they are doing their best to avoid Allegri even though he is by miles the best coach

  30. ArsenalMagna

    Dec 2, 2019, 11:08 #115685

    Kev the first goal was both CB's fault - they should have just showed Pukki outside and should have both stepped up to block his shot rather than drop off. Keown's analysis on MOTD 2 last night (on BBC site now if you missed it) was very good. A problem which deserves more mention is the lack of cover provided to the CBs. Both goals we conceded were classic cases of the DMs not sticking tight to the CBs. I'm not comfortable judging most of the players until they've had a proper manager coach them defence, but you can clearly see that Luiz is too erratic to be a CB but would be a great DM, and that Chambers needs to just bulk up and play CB as he's not agile enough to play RB. On the upside, I thought our attacking play was much better coordinated. I think a major problem is that whoever is that, whilst we generally dominate the home matches well enough to be a top 4 side, our away form has been dreadful for years now. There needs to be a mindset change where we go away to grab a 1-0 away win, create less chances but give away less too. Don't open up too much till the last 20 minutes. I can't see this happening, however, as there's such going to be desperation from any coach to get quick success, when in truth it is going to take months of drilling to get the players to the standard where they can play balanced football away from home.

  31. Colonel Blimp

    Dec 2, 2019, 11:03 #115684

    So that's a set games against the bottom three; 2-2 draws in which we could and probably should have been beaten in all of them. Four wins in 14. Do you know, even a relegation scrap might give the season a bit of zest.

  32. Pauljames

    Dec 2, 2019, 10:46 #115683

    Have to say I was surprised and disappointed by Freddie’s team selection yesterday, it smacked of trying to keep the experienced core happy and not wanting to ruffle too many feathers. Mustafi, Xhaka, Ozil , Luiz could all have been overlooked and their subsequent performances suggest they should have been.Not an encouraging start and if we fail to beat Brighton on Thursday the reality of a relegation scrap is going to be upon us.

  33. John F

    Dec 2, 2019, 09:55 #115682

    Mustafi,Socrates,Luiz,Kolasinac,Xhaka,Ozil are all players that need to be shipped on and 5 played yesterday which goes to show the mess this team is in.Add to that reported interest in Abuameyang from Madrid,Lacazette and Torriera not happy and Pepe not training properly according to Freddie no wonder the performance s are poor.The similarities with the mid eighties is striking with a divided squad but with a few promising youngsters coming through.We need a strong manager to come in like then and sort it out.I do not think Allegri or Simone would touch this job so I would go for a man who gives politicians answers when asked about the job which is Brendan Rodgers.