Arsenal’s first display under Freddie Ljungberg vindicates Unai Emery’s sacking

This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…

It was arguably a decision that had been coming for a very long time indeed. Unai Emery’s sacking from Arsenal appeared to be on the wall for a number of weeks, with the Gunners going on a run of seven games without a win under their Spanish boss.

And with trying to secure a new manager mid-season notoriously difficult, the north London side have entrusted Invincibles legend Freddie Ljungberg to step up as the club’s interim head coach. And despite having relatively no time whatsoever with his squad of players, there were enough signs in their 2-2 draw against Norwich on Sunday, that shows the Swede has plenty to work with.

One of the key remits no doubt of anyone following up Emery would have been to try and sort the defence out. After all, prior to their clash against the Canaries, the Gunners had conceded 19 goals in 13 Premier League games. Not exactly tight at the back. But one thing that may have been of equal concern, is their sheer lack of goals. Arsenal have always been a side known for their attacking football, but before Sunday, had notched just 18 times in the top-flight – even 15th-placed Aston Villa have scored more than them (21).

And after suggesting his first task as interim head coach is to get smiles back on faces again, Ljungberg smartly tried to ensure that the north Londoners become a whole lot more threatening and incisive going forward, rather than desperately trying to fix their leaky defence. In a first-half performance that was as impressive as any display this season, the Gunners looked back to their free-flowing best at times, with attackers interchanging positions and engaging in neat interchanges.

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In the first 45 minutes, they had 65% of the possession (their average in the top-flight this season has been down at 54.5%), and racked up eight total shots on goal. But for some profligate finishing from Alexandre Lacazette, and a goal-line clearance from the Norwich defence, they could have built up a comfortable lead. By the end of the game, they had taken 16 shots (a decent increase from the 12.7 they have managed per game all campaign) and averaged 60% possession.

Defence may still be the long-term issue for Ljungberg to fix. But against Norwich on Sunday, the Swede proved he may be able to address another one of Arsenal’s big problems. Their effectiveness going forward. The Gunners have been crying out for some more attacking intent, reminiscent of their glorious days under Arsene Wenger. They have been so insipid under Emery, devoid of any ideas and control. But their new interim head coach has already got them doing what they used to do so well. More possession, and more attacking intent.

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Article title: Arsenal’s first display under Freddie Ljungberg vindicates Unai Emery’s sacking

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