It’s been non-stop drama at Arsenal, which fans know too well. With everyone’s favourite Swede, Freddie Ljungberg, installed one the hot seat, who will be surprised if he retains his position? I certainly won’t be surprised, even though his start at Norwich was inauspicious.
Of course, Freddie made a number of strange decisions, including: starting Xhaka (for his first game since his strop), and the much-maligned Mustafi, while leaving Tierney and Pepe on the bench. To be honest, Xhaka played quite well, by his standards, although nowhere near as well as Guendouzi, who was inexplicably replaced.
The oddest decision of all was to leave Pepe on the bench, and to give the Emery-esque excuse that the Ivorian is not performing in training. Even if that’s true, it doesn’t make sense to have a match-winner on the bench and then not use him. Saka might be a match-winner one day and there is a time and a place of experimentation. However, away at Norwich, when you haven’t won in months is not the time to do it.
All Ljungberg has done is put the Ivorian’s nose out of joint, which is a policy that is unlikely to get the best out of this mercurial talent.
Nevertheless, Ljungberg was able to get the team motivated and playing on the front foot from the start, so he deserves all the plaudits for that.
Tactically, it was the same old mess at the back and some foolish passing, but upfront there was more energy, so that was an improvement.
In midfield, Guendouzi seems to play better alongside Xhaka than he does Torreira, for some unknown reason. Perhaps the pair have a good understanding: it’s hard to gauge, as one does enough running for two, while the other launches himself into tackles he can’t win.
However, now is not the time for Xhaka-bashing, as he acquitted himself well by his mediocre standards: he certainly wasn’t a liability, which makes a change.
Meanwhile, the defence has come in for a lot of criticism. I’m not sure I agree this time, as I don’t think they were protected by the midfield enough. While Guendouzi tries to cover every blade of grass, those around just watch and stroll around in comparison, with the possible exception of Willock and other youngsters.
On that note, it will be interesting to see what Ljungberg’s policy is with the younger players. I can see more of them getting a chance, as the Swede tries to dry the rot that has already set into Arsenal’s house of crumbling foundations.
Freddie will need as well as support to turn this Titanic around before it hits an iceberg, and if he can keep smiling, perhaps he has a ghost of a chance. One thing’s for sure, at least Freddie can speak fluently in English, so the chaos fans watch transpire on the pitch will be for reasons other than Emery’s Achilles heel: communication.
At least in that way, the new boss is nothing like the old boss. In other ways, there are too many similarities for Arsenal fans to feel comfortable with the caretaker in charge, even if Ljungberg is granted an extended honeymoon for being a former ‘Invincible’.