Ljungberg Seeks Wenger Advice As He Plots Arsenal Revival

Arsenal’s Swedish interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg awaits kick off in the English Premier League football match between Norwich City and Arsenal at Carrow Road in Norwich, eastern England on December 1, 2019. PHOTO: Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

 

Freddie Ljungberg intends to tap into the knowledge of Arsene Wenger and Sven-Goran Eriksson as he prepares for his second game in charge of Arsenal.

The 42-year-old interim manager took over from Unai Emery at the Emirates last week after the Spaniard was sacked, with Arsenal languishing in mid-table in the Premier League.

Ljungberg said Wenger, who brought the Swede to Arsenal as a player back in 1998, and Eriksson could offer valuable experience as he looks to build his own career.

Asked if he had spoken to former Arsenal boss Wenger, he replied: “No (not yet).

“I would really like to speak to him. I’m in contact with him but I haven’t spoke to him because it’s been a bit hectic, but it’s on my list to do so.

“He was here for 22 years as the coach so he has a lot of experience. And he probably has some things that he thinks are important that he can share with me and make me a better coach. That’s what I wanted to ask.”

While Ljungberg never played under his Swedish compatriot Eriksson, he admitted he heard good things about the former England manager.

“Sven is intelligent,” he said. “I spoke to him a lot when he was the manager of England because he was watching our games.

“I know in the past some stories of how he treated players and how he made them feel good and things like that.

“I have stolen a little bit of those ideas. He’s a great coach, it’s been a long time, and I hope I can speak to him soon.”

Arsenal drew 2-2 at Norwich on Sunday in Ljungberg’s first game in charge — extending their run without a victory in the Premier League to six matches.

They are in eighth place, seven points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, after just four wins from their first 14 matches.

Ljungberg, who said taking charge at the Emirates would be a proud moment, added the only way to change the atmosphere in the stadium was by performing on the pitch.

“When it comes to the Emirates, the fans want us to win football games,” he said.

“They want us to play good football and I think the only way to try to get a good atmosphere and get them going is to try to achieve that. Whether that’s me or someone else as a coach, I don’t think that matters so much.”

AFP

Arsenal Interim Boss Ljungberg Unsure About Managing Full-Time

Arsenal’s Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (L) and teammates react after Frankfurt’s Japanese midfielder Daichi Kamada scores his team’s second goal during their UEFA Europa league Group F football match between Arsenal and Eintracht Frankfurt at the Emirates stadium in London on November 28, 2019.
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

 

Freddie Ljungberg will take charge of Arsenal for the first time as interim manager on Sunday against Norwich but said on Saturday he is unsure whether full-time management appeals to him.

The 42-year-old Swede — who was a member of the Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ side under Arsene Wenger in the 2003/04 season — has been put in charge after Unai Emery’s undistinguished 18-month reign came to an end on Friday.

However, Ljungberg — who was an assistant to Emery — told Sky Sports it was too early to say whether being a manager on a permanent basis would be to his liking.

“We’ll see in the future,” said Ljungberg.

“At the moment I’m learning the trade.

“This is a big responsibility and the moment I’m just taking it game by game.”

Ljungberg’s first task will be to arrest the slump that has seen the Gunners fail to win in seven matches — their worst run since 1992 when George Graham’s side failed to win in eight.

READ ALSO: Newcastle Hold Man City In Thrilling Draw

Arsenal are presently eighth in the Premier League table, eight points off the fourth and final Champions League spot with a third of the league campaign gone.

Ljungberg — who played over 200 games for Arsenal in his nine years at the club and won the FA Cup on three occasions — has revealed no timescale has been set for his spell as Emery’s temporary replacement.

“No, no indication of how long or how short. They just said concentrate on your next game do as well as you can,” he said.

Ljungberg, who away from the pitch was a successful underwear model, said he was honoured to have been entrusted with the job of at least for the moment reviving Arsenal’s fortunes.

“It’s a great, great honour,” said Ljungberg.

“That’s how I feel. I feel this energy inside of me. It’s special.

“Of course there’s sadness because of what’s happened to the club and where we are, but also excitement for what we can do for the future and also for tomorrow.

“Its a great honour and that’s what I said to the players — ‘you guys do the job and I’ll try to help and support you’.

“If you play good football and get results then there’s nothing better than that to raise spirits.”

AFP

Emery, Arsenal Players Booed Despite Late Draw Against Southampton

Arsenal’s French striker Alexandre Lacazette (C) shoots to score their first goal during the English Premier League football match against Southampton at the Emirates Stadium in London on November 23, 2019. Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

 

 

Arsenal manager Unai Emery and his players were booed off despite Alexandre Lacazette’s 96th-minute equaliser denying Southampton a first win at the Gunners since 1987 in a pulsating 2-2 draw at the Emirates on Saturday.

Emery’s chances of remaining in charge fade with every passing week as a point at home to a side languishing in the relegation zone does little to further his side’s chances of achieving a top-four finish.

The Spaniard has received a vote of confidence from the board of a club that does not often fire managers, but many fans had already lost faith in him before this setback.

Lacazette’s goal, his second of the match, at least avoided an embarrassing defeat, but Arsenal have won just two of their last 11 Premier League games and slip down to seventh in the table behind Wolves and Burnley.

Despite their lowly status, Southampton were the better side and peppered the Arsenal goal with 21 shots to the home side’s 12.

Stuart Armstrong flashed an early Southampton opportunity narrowly wide but Arsenal didn’t heed the warning and were caught out by a ninth-minute free-kick.

Nathan Redmond, the man fouled, was still on the ground when Ryan Bertrand played it quickly to Danny Ings, who strode into space on the left before unleashing a low drive that went past goalkeeper Bernd Leno and in off a post.

That prompted boos from some home fans but the mood was in no way lightened by Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse firing the game’s next chance straight at Leno.

Lacazette changed the narrative with an equaliser in the 18th minute. Mesut Ozil’s cross from the left found Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in space in the box and although Bertrand blocked his shot the rebound fell to the France striker to fire home on the turn.

The second half was frantic from the start as Leno had to make a save from team-mate Lucas Torreira, who poked the ball towards his own goal in the act of dispossessing the lively Michael Obafemi.

Southampton then survived a VAR check for a penalty when Armstrong stuck up a hand to stop the ball smashing him in the face.

Arsenal’s club-record signing Nicolas Pepe started on the bench for the third straight game, but looked lively after being introduced at half-time and hit the bar with an acrobatic back-post effort that reared up off the turf.

But it was the visitors who continued to pose the greater threat and they were awarded a penalty when Kieran Tierney pushed Ings over to stop him reaching a dangerous Obafemi cross. Ward-Prowse’s first effort was saved by Leno, but he made it 2-1 on the rebound.

Joe Willock then prevented Saints replacement Moussa Djenepo from wrapping up victory with a block of a goalbound shot, with Djenepo firing wide from just seven yards out during seven minutes of added time.

Those misses proved to be costly as Arsenal substitute Gabriel Martinelli found Lacazette unmarked at the back post for a smart finish and an undeserved equaliser with virtually the last kick of the game.

Europa League: Arsenal Held By Vitoria Guimaraes 1-1

Vitoria Guimaraes’ Nigerian midfielder Mikel Ndubusi Agu (L) vies with Arsenal’s English striker Bukayo Saka during the UEFA Europa League Group F football match between Vitoria Guimaraes SC and Arsenal FC at the Dom Afonso Henriques stadium in Guimaraes on November 6, 2019.
MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

 

Arsenal’s faltering form continued as a much-changed side limped towards the last 32 of the Europa League with a 1-1 draw at Vitoria Guimaraes on Wednesday.

Shkodran Mustafi’s header 10 minutes from time looked set to hand the Gunners a barely deserved three points and maintain their 100 percent record in Group F.

However, Vitoria secured their first point in the group thanks to Bruno Duarte’s acrobatic stoppage-time equaliser.

Arsenal remains well placed to reach the knockout stages as they top the group with 10 points from their first four games.

READ ALSO: After Stunning Inter, Dortmund Turn Sights On Bayern

However, another underwhelming performance and result will do little to ease the mounting pressure on manager Unai Emery.

The Spaniard has been heavily criticised for a run of two wins in nine Premier League games, leaving them six points outside the top four, and Emery prioritised Saturday’s vital trip to Leicester with his starting line-up.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was named as Arsenal’s new captain on Tuesday after Granit Xhaka was stripped of that responsibility for his angry outburst towards the club’s fans when being substituted against Crystal Palace 10 days ago.

However, Aubameyang was not even included on the substitutes bench as Emery made eight changes from the side that started Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home to Wolves.

Vitoria came closest to scoring in the first half when Pepe smashed a long-range shot off the underside of the bar.

Arsenal had barely created anything of note but seemed set to get out of jail when Mustafi nodded home Nicolas Pepe’s free-kick to give the visitors the lead.

But going behind summoned a response from the hosts who threw caution to the wind in the closing stages and were rewarded in the first minute of injury time.

Former Tottenham winger Marcus Edwards was the creator as Arsenal failed to clear his cross before Duarte hooked home the loose ball with a bicycle kick.

AFP

Xhaka Stripped Of Arsenal Captaincy

A file photo of Granit Xhaka.

 

Arsenal manager Unai Emery confirmed on Tuesday that Granit Xhaka has been stripped of the club captaincy after an emotional outburst towards supporters.

The Swiss international swore and threw the captain’s armband to the floor after being booed as he was substituted against Crystal Palace 10 days ago.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who led Arsenal for Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home to Wolves, will take over as captain.

Xhaka was not included in the squad for the Wolves match or Wednesday’s visit to Vitoria Guimaraes in the Europa League.

“I was speaking with him this morning and also I decided he’s not one of the captains in our group and I decided that and I told him this morning,” Emery said. “He accepted my decision.

“We have now Aubameyang, Hector (Bellerin), (Alexandre) Lacazette and (Mesut) Ozil – they are the four captains, and first is now Aubameyang.”

“I needed to take one decision, and now it is closed,” Emery added.

Xhaka, 27, blamed death threats to his family for his furious response, saying he had reached “boiling point”.

“My feeling of not being understood by fans, and repeated abusive comments at matches and in social media over the last weeks and months have hurt me deeply,” he wrote on Instagram.

“People have said things like ‘We will break your legs’, ‘Kill your wife’ and ‘Wish that your daughter gets cancer’.

“That has stirred me up and I reached boiling point when I felt the rejection in the stadium.”

Xhaka had only been confirmed as captain by Emery in September after the Spaniard took a dressing room vote to decide on the skipper after the departures of Laurent Koscielny and Petr Cech.

Arsenal’s Xhaka To Miss Wolves Clash

A file photo of Granit Xhaka. AFP photo.

 

 

Unai Emery has confirmed Granit Xhaka will miss Arsenal’s clash with Wolves on Saturday as the Swiss midfielder’s fan feud rumbles on.

Xhaka appeared to swear at Arsenal supporters after his second-half substitution prompted sarcastic cheers and booing during Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace.

The 27-year-old cupped his ears, waved his arms angrily and ripped off his shirt before storming down the tunnel.

Xhaka has faced calls to be stripped of the Arsenal captaincy and he was left out for Wednesday’s League Cup defeat at Liverpool after Gunners boss Emery admitted his reaction was wrong.

READ ALSO: Bale Returns To Real Squad, To Miss Betis Clash

Xhaka, who was also booed against Aston Villa earlier this season, revealed on Thursday he reached boiling point following a series of sick taunts toward him and his family via social media.

With Wolves visiting the Emirates Stadium this weekend, it is possible Xhaka would have endured more abuse after the statement offered only a faint apology for his actions.

Emery has again decided it is better to take Xhaka out of the firing line to stop the controversy distracting his players in an important Premier League fixture.

“He said sorry, he gave the apologies to the supporters, to everybody and now the focus is for tomorrow’s match,” Emery told reporters on Friday.

“It is not in my mind that he is going play tomorrow. I am thinking tomorrow he is not going to play because I think now we need also to be focused only 100 per cent on the match.”

Xhaka was already a disliked figure among many Arsenal fans after lacklustre displays since his 2016 arrival from Borussia Moenchengladbach.

His failure to block the cross that led to Palace’s equalising goal on Sunday was the final straw for some at the Emirates as they vented their frustrations.

A decision over the captaincy remains to be announced, although Xhaka is said to retain the backing of Arsenal’s players, who voted him as skipper in pre-season.

AFP

Emery Asks ‘Devastated’ Xhaka To Apologise

Granit Xhaka, Arsenal

 

Granit Xhaka has been left “devastated” by the confrontation with Arsenal supporters on Sunday but still should apologise said Gunners manager Unai Emery on Tuesday.

Emery, though, would not be drawn on whether the 27-year-old Swiss international midfielder will remain the captain following his tantrum on being substituted in the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace.

Xhaka — who was voted in as captain by secret ballot of his team-mates in the close season — has enjoyed a fractious relationship with the Arsenal supporters since he joined in 2016.

It reached its nadir on Sunday when they booed him as he walked off with him cupping his hand to his ear and then apparently mouthing ‘Fxxx off’ in their direction before storming down the tunnel.

“Yes (he should apologise),” said Emery, speaking on the eve of the Gunners fourth round League Cup clash with Liverpool.

“We make mistakes, we need to apologise and we suggested for him to do that.

“Really, he knows he was wrong and he feels inside very deep.

“Now we are looking, seeing he is devastated and the first thing is to recover him.

“We need our family, friends and supporters to support us, love us.

“He is not feeling that with the supporters.

“But we are speaking with him ‘first, be calm. Be close to your family and be close to us because we are your family’.”

Emery said Xhaka has the qualities required of a captain but refused to respond as to whether he remained in his post.

“At the moment I am not speaking and I don’t want to think about that,” the Spaniard said.

“It is not easy for him and for the team. We spoke yesterday, and Sunday night also, and this morning.

“He has the values, the respect in the dressing room, experience.

“He is captain of his national team and has the condition to be the captain.

“I decided that. The players respect that, and he was wrong on Sunday and it was not the response of a captain.”

Emery Pleads For Patience As Arsenal Stumble

Arsenal’s Spanish head coach Unai Emery looks on before the English Premier League football match between Fulham and Arsenal at Craven Cottage in London on October 7, 2018.  AFP

 

Arsenal manager Unai Emery asked for fans to give him time as doubts grow over the Spaniard’s ability to lead the Gunners back into the Champions League.

A disappointing 1-0 defeat at promoted Sheffield United on Monday left Arsenal fifth in the Premier League, after just four wins in their opening nine games.

Emery enjoyed an encouraging start as the successor to Arsene Wenger after the Frenchman’s 22-year reign in charge, but Arsenal’s form tailed off at the end of last season as they narrowly missed out on a top-four finish and lost to Chelsea in the final of the Europa League.

“It’s normal to have in different and difficult moments criticism for our work and my job,” Emery said on Wednesday ahead of his side’s Europa League clash with Portuguese club Vitoria Guimaraes. “We need to accept that.

“My focus in the next matches is thinking about how we can improve and also we need to think how we can, little-by-little, progress and achieve our immediate targets.”

The target for Emery and the club hierarchy is a return to the riches of the Champions League for the first time since the 2016/17 season.

Despite claiming to have a restricted budget for summer signings, the former Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain boss was heavily backed in the transfer market with the arrivals of Nicolas Pepe, Kieran Tierney, David Luiz and Dani Ceballos.

“Our objective is clear on where we want to get,” added Emery. “We are at the beginning. Really, I am very confident in the players, in our job, in our work, in the club strategy, in every player.”

After failing to break down the Blades on Monday, Emery has been criticised for his repeated refusal to field Mesut Ozil.

The former Germany international is the highest earner at the club, but has made just two appearances this season.

Emery, though, rejected suggestions he has been overly conservative with Arsenal scoring just twice in their past three league games.

“Above all I want to continue being an offensive team, improving defensively but offensive. Our mentality is to be offensive. I am going to get that balance I am sure.”

AFP

Ozil Doesn’t Deserve To Play Europa League – Emery

Arsenal’s Spanish head coach Unai Emery gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium in London on September 1, 2019.
Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Unai Emery said Mesut Ozil did not deserve his place even in a squad packed with youngsters after Arsenal beat Standard Liege in the Europa League.

Ozil, the highest-paid player in the history of the club, was once again left out of the matchday squad as Gabriel Martinelli hit a brace in a 4-0 Group F victory at home on Thursday.

The 18-year-old scored twice in three first-half minutes before laying on Dani Ceballos to score his first goal for the club, Joe Willock having already added the third.

Emery made 10 changes from the side that drew at Manchester United on Monday, with Ozil not making the matchday squad on either occasion.

“I am thinking every time to decide the best players for each match and the best players in the squad to play and to help us,” Emery replied when asked about Ozil’s omission.

“When I decided he shouldn’t be in the squad it’s because I think other players deserved it more.”

The 30-year-old has had a difficult relationship with Emery since the manager’s appointment last year and his absence from the squad will lend weight to speculation that he does not have a long-term future at Arsenal.

On a positive night for the Gunners, Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin, who captained the side, all came through 90 minutes as they continued their comebacks from injury.

Bellerin battled back from a long lay-off with a serious knee injury to skipper the side on his first start since January and was proud to lead out the team.

“There’s not a better way to come back,” he said.

“I feel very honoured to wear the Arsenal armband and lead the team out. It’s been a tough road for me over the past eight months but I feel very lucky to have had my players, family and friends around me.”

 

AFP

EPL: New Captain Xhaka To Repay Emery’s Faith In United Clash

Aston Villa’s Brazilian striker Wesley (L) vies with Arsenal’s Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka (R) during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium in London on September 22, 2019. Tolga AKMEN / AFP

 

Granit Xhaka will lead Arsenal into Monday’s Premier League clash at Manchester United as the club’s new captain, but the Swiss midfielder has to win over plenty of doubters that he is fit to wear the Gunners’ armband.

Xhaka’s discipline and defensive awareness have repeatedly been questioned since joining the club from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016, but both Arsene Wenger and current Arsenal boss Unai Emery have consistently put their faith in the 27-year-old.

That trust is not replicated by the club’s fans. On one of the few occasions he was replaced by Emery with the Gunners trailing 2-1 to Aston Villa last weekend, Xhaka was booed as he trudged off the field.

Despite being down to 10 men, Arsenal turned the game around with the energetic duo of Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira buzzing around the midfield.

That is a combination many supporters would like to see on a more regular basis, but Xhaka’s elevated status in the dressing room means he will remain a fixture for some time to come.

Emery sought votes from his squad before naming a five-man leadership group on Friday, of which Xhaka came top, but the Spanish manager is aware of the doubters questioning his decision.

“In the dressing room the players voted him as the first (in the) leadership (group),” said Emery on Friday.

“I spoke with him, we want to change that opinion outside. That respect he has inside is very, very important.

“Each match is for him, for me, for us, is a very good opportunity to show our capacity.

“Really I trust and believe in him. He is a good man. A good professional. A good player.”

Emery’s trust in Xhaka could easily backfire.

Arsenal have a break clause in the contract they handed the former Sevilla manager in 2018 that could see him released at the end of the season if he fails to deliver Champions League football to the Emirates for the first time in four years.

“It is a brave decision from the manager,” said former Arsenal defender Martin Keown, who described Xhaka’s performance against Tottenham earlier in the season as being “like a fire engine that turns up and discovers the house has already burned down.”

A stereotypical late lunge conceded a penalty that day in the north London derby as Arsenal had to battle back from 2-0 down to salvage a point.

Xhaka also described his side as “scared” when they threw away a 2-0 lead at Watford to draw 2-2 earlier this month.

Monday’s visit to an injury-ravaged United offers Arsenal a great chance for their first league victory at Old Trafford since 2006.

Do so and they will also open up a six-point lead over one of their rivals to break into the top tour.

For Emery to show to his superiors that he is making progress as Wenger’s long-awaited successor, he needs Xhaka to start to inspire his side to rise to the occasion.

AFP

Arsenal Players Vote On New Captains, Says Holding

Arsenal’s players celebrate on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium in London on September 22, 2019. Arsenal won the game 3-2. Tolga AKMEN / AFP

 

Arsenal manager Unai Emery has asked his players to vote for their preferred choices as captain as he rebuilds his five-strong leadership group, according to defender Rob Holding.

Emery introduced a pool of five captains following his appointment last year but out of his original choices, Laurent Koscielny, Petr Cech and Aaron Ramsey have left the club.

Midfielder Granit Xhaka has so far worn the armband in the Premier League this season but is yet to convince in the role and was jeered by his own fans during the weekend win over Aston Villa, while the peripheral Mesut Ozil is the only other member of the initial five still at the club.

Holding revealed that Spanish coach Emery recently conducted a poll of the dressing room.

“He likes his five captains. We all did a vote the other week so we’ll see what happens and see who gets named,” said Holding.

“It was just write names down and then give them to the manager and he will go through them obviously with his input and we’ll see what happens.

“I have no idea (when an announcement will be made), but there are a lot of leaders in that team who are helping each other out and pushing each other on.”

Arsenal have been repeatedly criticised for a perceived lack of leadership, dating back to the reign of Arsene Wenger.

Out-of-favour Ozil was named captain for Tuesday’s League Cup win over Nottingham Forest before passing the responsibility to centre-back Holding when he was substituted.

While he was unwilling to reveal his choice of skipper, Holding described Xhaka as “a great leader” and also praised the influence of experienced close-season signing David Luiz.

Asked if Arsenal have more leaders than critics believe, Holding said: “For sure. You can see it in training. The way David Luiz has come in and when he is talking in front of the group he speaks really well.”

Holding marked his return from a nine-month injury lay-off by scoring just seconds after taking the armband from Ozil in the 5-0 win over Forest.

And the 24-year-old has aspirations of performing the role again.

“I would love to be a captain and being captain of Arsenal is unbelievable,” he said. “It would be a great feeling.”

AFP

Emery ‘Proud’ After Arsenal Stage Thrilling Fightback

Arsenal’s Spanish head coach Unai Emery gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium in London on September 1, 2019. Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Unai Emery saluted Arsenal’s fighting spirit after they hit back from two goals down to salvage a pulsating 2-2 draw against Tottenham in Sunday’s north London derby.

Emery’s side were in danger of a damaging defeat after goals from Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane put Tottenham in control by the 40th minute at the Emirates Stadium.

But Alexandre Lacazette reduced the deficit just before half-time and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang grabbed Arsenal’s equaliser after the interval.

“I’m pretty proud of our work. We played with our heart, sometimes more than our head. We need the balance,” Emery said.

“We need to be clearer in our mind. We made some mistakes in the first half.

“The fans pushed us and helped us. The first goal for us was the key.

“We deserved to win over the 90 minutes. The match was amazing for everyone watching.”

Arsenal head into the international break in fifth place, with just one defeat from their first four matches.

Tottenham are two points behind their hated rivals and have won only once in their opening four fixtures.

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has been frustrated by the decision to allow European clubs to buy players after the Premier League transfer deadline.

His Denmark playmaker Eriksen has been keen to leave, creating an unsettling effect for the rest of the squad.

But with the European deadline looming on Monday, Pochettino hopes Tottenham will be more unified once Eriksen’s future is settled.

“In the first half it was a great 45 minutes and I was a little bit ashamed to concede before half-time,” Pochettino said.

“We have massive quality and from tomorrow we will all be on the same page. With Christian Eriksen we have to wait but it shows it was the right decision to play him.

“He showed a great performance and helped the team to get a point here.

“I am optimistic and happy to work with the squad and try to fight for big things for the club.

“It is about drawing a strong line for the future. It’s important to move on and learn from the past.”

AFP