In Freddie Ljungberg’s second game as caretaker manager for Arsenal, the Gunners lost 2-1 to Brighton – a team that had failed to win away at the ‘big six’ in their last 16 attempts. In fact, in the 17 games that Brighton have played away at the ‘big six’, they have claimed just four points – all four of which have come against Arsenal.
It is another low point for Arsenal in what it seeming to become a season full of them. The feeling that the club has hit it’s bottom point and will begin to climb back up is fading, it’s now a feeling of ‘how much further will they fall?’ The loss to Brighton should highlight that the problems Arsenal face run far, far deeper than just the manager.
While Freddie Ljungberg is a temporary appointment currently, you still expect to see a honeymoon period under a caretaker manager. There are plenty of examples of this happening in recent times, look at Hansi Flick for Bayern Munich, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United, Darren Moore at West Brom. All of whom saw an immediate upturn in fortunes for their teams upon taking the reigns. That has not been the case for Ljungberg.
Granted it can be argued that he is still extremely new to the role, taking over from Emery just one week ago, however that is the very nature of a caretaker role. The loss to Brighton is categorically worse than the draw at Norwich in his first game in charge and the performances should be getting better, not worse, it’s no surprise some Arsenal fans stayed back to boo their team off the pitch following defeat.
The issues at Arsenal will not be solved by the appointment of a new manager, things have been getting progressively worse at the club for a number of years now and the drop-off this season has been absolutely enormous.
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Taking a look at the stats above, Arsenal have been steadily declining for the past four seasons, which is also reflected in their league position each season. Going from being a regular in the top four, to failing to finish higher than fifth in each of the last three seasons and now at a point in which it’s questionable if they’ll even make the top six this season.
There are a slew of issues at the club, one being the poor recruitment towards the end of the Wenger era, due to the money invested in the new stadium. Another being big money signings failing to make the required impact, important players being allowed to run down their contracts and leave for next to nothing and defensive issues that have plagued the team for years.
The squad needs a serious overhaul, even as a neutral it is obvious to see that there are players at the club who either aren’t good enough or don’t care enough to be out on the pitch. Having either one of David Luiz or Sokratis in your back line is manageable, however having the pair is just asking for mistakes and trouble, it is an issue that needs to be rectified in January. They need a manager that can come in and get the best out of Nicolas Pepe, who has so far failed to make an impact following his £72 million move. This team is utterly reliant on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, he has to bail them out of many late game situations, in 2018/19 he scored just under a third of the team’s total goal tally for the season.
Throughout most of the Wenger era, Arsenal were a team with a set identity, everyone knew what to expect when they went up against them, yet there was little that most teams could do to stop it. But over the past few seasons, that identity shifted, before disappearing altogether under Emery.
Arsenal need a man like Max Allegri to come in and begin laying foundations that the club can build from, begin to instil a new identity into the squad, which will allow the players to have more direction and give the decision makers a better idea of which players to target in the transfer windows, rather than bringing in flashy names that might help improve the side.
It is going to be a long road back for Arsenal, I’d be surprised to see them finish in the top four any time in the next 2 years at the very least. The club needs a serious overhaul from top to bottom.
*stats for the 2019/20 season are accurate up to 15 games into the season. Stats taken from www.premierleague.com