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New manager, same old Arsenal: Ljungberg fails to steady the ship as dismal Gunners fall to Brighton


Arsenal’s shocking recent run of form continued this evening, as Freddie Ljungberg’s men fell to a deserved 2-1 defeat at home to Brighton.

Arsenal host Brighton

The Gunners welcomed Graham Potter’s men to the Emirates a short time ago, for their latest Premier League outing.

The matchup came as Freddie Ljungberg’s 2nd on the Arsenal bench, after the Swedish icon was appointed interim boss on the back of Unai Emery’s dismissal last week.

Ljungberg’s managerial debut came last weekend, with the north Londoners having been held to a 2-2 draw by relegation-battling Norwich.

Their stalemate at Carrow Road, meanwhile, saw Arsenal’s winless streak reach 8 games across all competitions.

As such, their meeting with Brighton this evening was no doubt viewed as must-win, if the Gunners were to keep their feint hopes of securing a top-4 berth alive.

Arsenal’s struggles continue

Things, though, could not have gotten off to a much worse start for the hosts.

An abysmal display over the game’s opening 45 minutes saw Brighton largely dominate, eventually resulting in Adam Webster handing the Seagulls a deserved lead 10 minutes before the interval.

After Arsenal failed to deal with a whipped corner from the right, the ball dropped to towering stopper Webster, who slotted home past Bernd Leno in style.

To their credit, Arsenal did come back out for the second 45 with renewed energy and vigour, immediately putting Brighton on the back foot with a high defensive press.

Substitute Nicolas Pepe provided some much-needed width and directness to the home side’s attack, leading to an equaliser 5 minutes following the interval.

Mesut Ozil’s corner to the near post was flicked on by Alexandre Lacazette, with the ball having looped beyond the reach of the despairing Maty Ryan and in off the upright.

At this point, with momentum and the roar of the home crowd on their side, Gunners fans the world over were no doubt hopeful that their side would kick on over the remaining 40 minutes, to eventually bag a much-needed winner.

What subsequently unfolded, however, proved a different story altogether.

A flat, disjointed close to the clash for the hosts, which saw Brighton look a constant threat on the counter, saw a deciding strike netted, but not for Arsenal.

10 minutes from time, Aaron Mooy’s pinpoint delivery from the left found the head of Neal Maupay, with the Seagulls hitman having beaten David Luiz to the ball to glance home into the far corner of the Arsenal goal.

And this was all she wrote in terms of the goalscoring at the Emirates, as the Gunners’ winless streak reached a frankly-ridiculous 9 straight outings.

Ljungberg fails to impress

While individually, a host of Arsenal’s stars simply failed to perform this evening, the shortcomings of the inexperienced Ljungberg also proved all too telling over the course of the 90 minutes.

First off, the club icon’s choice of formation, and team selection for that matter, were questionable at best.

Joe Willock’s inclusion from the off, despite the youngster’s struggles last time out at Norwich, saw Mesut Ozil shifted to a wide role in the first-half, essentially wasting the German creator’s talents.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, meanwhile, was also forced into a spot on the wing, rather than his most effective position through the middle.

Elsewhere, while Granit Xhaka’s impression when on the ball proved one of few positive takeaways from an Arsenal perspective, the lack of protection provided to the hosts’ back-4 by either the Swiss international or midfield partner Lucas Torreira was at times baffling.

One or both of the Gunners’ engine room stars were persistently caught too far forward, leaving a chasm of space for the likes of Aaron Connolly and Pascal Gross to drift into.

This was a shortcoming highlighted time and time again during Unai Emery’s time at the club, with Ljungberg’s failure to introduce any form of tactical or personnel changes to take some of the pressure off his side’s shaky-at-best defence a real cause for concern.

Elsewhere, Hector Bellerin simply doesn’t appear to be fit, and David Luiz, to the surprise of absolutely no one, looked his typical mistake-prone self throughout proceedings.

LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 05: David Luiz of Arsenal discusses with Sokratis of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Brighton & Hove Albion at Emirates Stadium on December 05, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Rob Holding, and possibly even Calum Chambers, should be introduced to the heart of the Arsenal backline as soon as possible.

The latter in an out-and-out defensive midfield role (as he impressed in at Fulham) may even be worth a try at this point.

These, though, are just a handful of the countless issues to take away from Arsenal’s latest lacklustre performance.

While Freddie Ljungberg of course cannot be expected to wave a magic wand and solve the deep flaws in the side left to him by Unai Emery, he must begin to make the right changes, and fast, if the Swede has any hopes of making his interim position at the Emirates a permanent one over the coming months.

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