Freddie Ljungberg

Bournemouth holds Arsenal on rain-drenched Boxing Day

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Arsenal was the more dangerous team on the day, but couldn’t find a second goal in a rain-drenched 1-1 with Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Boxing Day.

Dan Gosling scored for the second-straight game as the Cherries again gained a result against a traditional London power.

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang poked home an equalizer, but Mikel Arteta only saw a single point from his Arsenal managerial debut.

Bournemouth now sits 16th with 20 points, four behind 11th place Arsenal.


Three things we learned

1. Cherries get another big point: Bournemouth’s season has been disappointing, but Thursday saw another surprise from Eddie Howe‘s men. They were quite good versus Arsenal after beating Chelsea at the weekend, whereas the Cherries used to control the little guys and fail against the traditional powers.

Gosling is having a week, now with goals in a 1-0 win over Chelsea and 1-1 draw versus Arsenal.

2. Ozil suspect, and no Pepe, no party? Maybe Arsenal is trying to drive some sort of value into their German playmaker, but Mesut Ozil drew another start and was far from his best. He had played well in consecutive starts against bottom dwellers Saints and Norwich, but has struggled to impact the game since. Fair play on four key passes, but Ozil didn’t threaten the goal himself and failed in his only dribble attempt. He was replaced by Joe Willock in the 75th minute.

This leads us to another player he helped keep on the bench (until the 82nd minute). I can only imagine that one day we’ll learn that Nicolas Pepe hides all the toilet paper at the training ground and puts toothpaste in the salad dressing or something. Mikel Arteta has now joined Freddie Ljungberg and Unai Emery in keeping the dynamic playmaker out of the Starting XI.

3. Xhaka rewards faith of new boss: Mikel Arteta used his first pre-match presser as Arsenal boss to speak of his admiration for Granit Xhaka. Arteta said he wanted the midfielder at Man City, and the Swiss big man was strong in the center of the park. Xhaka completed 11 of 12 long balls and passed at 93 percent, paired with Lucas Torreira at the back of the midfield.

Man of the Match: Jack Stacey had a nice match at right back in the rain, just edging Xhaka.


There is no question Arsenal was the better side over the first half-hour, but the Gunners defense let them down again.

Stacey wound up deep in the Arsenal box and cut back into a sea of players, Gosling’s foot the first to the ball.

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Aubameyang found the equalizer in the 64th minute, starting and finishing a play after Reiss Nelson‘s shot was deflected onto his path.

The rains grew heavier and Lacazette was deprived a goal from a nice David Luiz set-up.

Arteta confirms Ljungberg remains on Arsenal staff

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Just as Carlo Ancelotti did with Duncan Ferguson, so too will Mikel Arteta keep Freddie Ljungberg on staff at Arsenal.

The former Arsenal player impressed and endeared himself to fans during his time as interim manager, taking charge following the dismissal of Unai Emery and seeing the club to five points across his five Premier League matches in charge. Arteta took note, and has made sure to carve out a space for Ljungberg on his new Arsenal staff.

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“I spoke to Freddie after the [Everton] game,” Arteta said during his pre-match press conference ahead of Thursday’s game against Bournemouth, his first match in charge of the club. “I told him my ideas about the people I want to bring to form my coaching staff, the roles and responsibilities of each of them and I wanted to know what he was feeling. I wanted to know what he had in mind and what his expectations were. We talk and we made a decision that the best thing was for him to carry on with us.”

With all the changes of late at Arsenal, a bit of continuity can be helpful and Arteta confirmed as much. “I think he can be very valuable, he knows the players, he knows the situation, he knows the history and where we’re coming from. As well, his knowledge of the game is going to help us get better.”

Arteta was also asked about Mesut Ozil, and while he mostly danced around the question regarding the German international, he did seem to indicate Ozil would be given a clean slate.

“It’s a question for him [Freddie],” Arteta said in response to a question about Ljungberg’s previous indication that he wouldn’t have picked Ozil even if he had been fit. “I just wanted him to pick the best possible lineup for the game.”

“You’re not going to be judged on what you done in the past, positive or negative,” Arteta said later when pressed on Ozil. “We will try to put the most competitive team out, we are to be ready and nullify them [Bournemouth] as much as possible.”

Arsenal ‘can’t rely on our name’ as youngsters stand tall

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Youngsters Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and Gabriel Martinelli all played and stood tall as Arsenal ground out a 0-0 draw at Everton on Saturday.

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Established stars Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette struggled, while Nicolas Pepe and Mesut Ozil have been inconsistent all season. Maybe it is time for the kids to rescue Arsenal…

It wasn’t pretty but it will provide new manager Mikel Arteta, who was watching on from the stands, with the belief that this squad can dig deep to turn things around and get back in the top four hunt.

Speaking to BT Sport after the game, interim coach Freddie Ljungberg revealed that he was delighted with how his young side played and they will need to put in plenty more gritty displays under Arteta.

“I was very happy. We had a very young side out there because I wanted energy and I wanted to give them chances. We dominated possession and chances, and you could see Everton getting tired and frustrated,” Ljungberg said. “I thought we could have won the game with the chances we had. But I loved the spirit we saw and that’s what you need in the Premier League. I wanted to see people that would run and fight for the team. We can’t rely on our name – we have to fight and do the dirty things.”

Arsenal have talent and they have enough to be in the top four hunt, but the one thing which can be questioned is their determination and focus.

You couldn’t fault that from their youngsters on Saturday against a fired-up Everton side who were playing in front of their own new manager watching from the stands, Carlo Ancelotti. At times their play was sloppy but the determination was there.

Arsenal and Arteta will need that in abundance going forward and it seems like his succinct and impressive first press conference on Friday struck a chord with the players.

Stalemate between Everton, Arsenal

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Everton and Arsenal played out a dour 0-0 draw at Goodison Park on Saturday, as both teams had their new managers watching on from the stands.

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Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta are now in charge of Everton and Arsenal respectively and will have been far from impressed with what they saw as interim managers Duncan Ferguson and Freddie Ljungberg tried their best, but both teams failed to create clear cut chances.

With the point Everton now have 19 for the season but remain just above the relegation zone, while Arsenal move on to 23 points.


3 things we learned

1. Players distracted as new managers watch on: With Arteta and Ancelotti in the stands, both sets of players looked nervous. It was as though they were involved in a very, very public job interview and a lot of the players were trying to do things they weren’t comfortable with. That resulted in a very poor game, lacking in quality and specializing in nerves. Both new managers will have plenty to mull over in the coming days as they aim to push their teams up the table.

2. Arsenal’s kids are okay: Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka, Joe Reiss Nelson and Gabriel Martinelli all started and all played their part in a gritty away display for the Gunners. The kids played well in the second half against Man City last week and perhaps new manager Arteta will be best served to give them an extended run in the team in the coming weeks and months. Aubameyang was taken off in the second half and the likes of Lacazette, Ozil and Pepe have failed to get going in recent months, so it may be down to the kids to drag Arsenal out of this situation.

3. Big Dunc signs off unbeaten: Interim boss Duncan Ferguson can hold his head high as he prepares for a position on Ancelotti’s staff. The Everton legend beat Chelsea and drew against Man United and Arsenal in his three PL games in charge, plus the Toffees draw 2-2 against Leicester in the League Cup quarterfinals, only to lose on penalty kicks. Ferguson will be back and he is a man of the people and gave his sweatband, tie and everything else away as he walked off the pitch at the end of the game. After Ancelotti, he has shown he can be the next man up for the Toffees as he galvanized a struggling squad of players to dig deep and restore some pride. The way he subbed off the sub Cenk Tosun will rub many the wrong way, and he did it with Moise Kean last week too, but Ferguson isn’t messing around and he has high standards which the Toffees lived up to.

Man of the Match: Calum Chambers – Dug deep defensively, looked solid at the heart of Arsenal’s defense and dealt with the threat of Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin and Tosun well.


Both teams were tentative on the ball early with their new managers watching on, and the first big moment was Alex Iwobi coming off injured with what looked like a slight hamstring pull. His replacement, Cenk Tosun, flashed an effort over the bar with his first touch of the game as Everton started to build a head of steam.

Richarlison had a shot blocked and Gylfi Sigurdsson curled a free kick just wide as Arsenal struggled to get out of their own half. Tom Davies crossed for Tosun but it was too powerful for the Turkish striker to get a decent effort on target, then Gabriel Martinelli raced clear at the other end but smashed wide as Arsenal had their first chance of the game right on half time.

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At the start of the second half Richarlison flashed an effort just wide of the far post as Everton continued to look the more likely to break the deadlock.

Jordan Pickford then made a really good save as Calum Chamber’s flick on found Aubameyang at the back post but Everton’s goalkeeper clawed the ball out. Emile Smith Rowe then should have got a shot away but Aubameyang slipped as he tried to finish as the Gunners finally got going.

Everton finished the game strongly as Dominic Calvert-Lewin had a shot which was blocked by Lucas Torreira in the box, as VAR checked for a handball but nothing was given.

Cenk Tosun was subbed off late on after coming on as a sub, as Moise Kean came on and Tosun was far from happy with the decision from Ferguson.

The final minutes were scrappy and summed up the full 90 as both teams huffed and puffed without really throwing caution to the wind.

Premier League Preview: Everton v. Arsenal

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  • Everton (18 points) sit 16th in PL table
  • Arsenal (22 points) sit 10th
  • Last meeting: Everton 1-0 Arsenal

Freddie Ljungberg‘s tenure as interim manager has but one game remaining, and the same could also be true for Duncan Ferguson at Everton, when the two sides meet at Goodison Park on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com). Mikel Arteta was announced as the Gunners’ new boss on Friday (he’ll take control of the first team beginning on Sunday), and Carlo Ancelotti is still widely expected to take over the Toffees in the coming hours or days.

Before the inevitable change takes place, though, Saturday offers another opportunity for a pair of hugely underperforming clubs to start the difficult climb up the Premier League table.

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Arsenal currently sit 10th, though they trail fourth-place Chelsea by just seven points. A second-half resurgence under Arteta could easily see them return to the UEFA Champions League for the first time after three seasons in the dreaded Europa League. For revenue purposes, it’s something the club desperately needs to achieve. With just one win in their last nine PL games, the Gunners should be nearly out of striking distance for a top-four finish, but all three of Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United have struggled to varying degrees and left the door wide open.

As for Everton, three wins from their last nine games were enough to pull them out of the relegation zone, though they still sit 16th, just three points clear of 18th-place Southampton. Ferguson guided the Toffees to a 3-1 demolition of Chelsea two weeks ago, followed by a 1-1 draw away to Manchester United a week ago. Despite their current place in the table — they are just four points out of 10th — things might already have begun to turn around at Everton.

Injuries/suspensions

Everton: OUT – Andre Gomes (ankle), Theo Walcott (calf), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (thigh), Morgan Schneiderlin (calf); QUESTIONABLE: Lucas Digne (groin), Gylfi Sigurdsson (illness), Djibril Sidibe (illness), Fabian Delph (hamstring)

Arsenal: OUT – Sead Kolasinac (ankle), Dani Ceballos (hamstring), Kieran Tierney (shoulder), Rob Holding (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Hector Bellerin (hamstring)


Projected lineups

Everton: Pickford — Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne — Iwobi, Davies, Holgate, BernardRicharlison, Calvert-Lewin

Arsenal: Leno — Maitland-Niles, Luiz, Sokratis, Chambers — Guendouzi, Torreira — Pepe, Ozil — Lacazette, Aubameyang


What they’re saying

Ljungberg, on the future of Arsenal: “The message from me is still the same, get behind us and support the team. It’s been an honor to have helped the club I love for the last few weeks and I am excited to work with [Arteta] and his staff moving forward.”

Ferguson, on his future: “Obviously [Ancelotti] is an incredible manager, he’s won everything. It would be fantastic to work under a top manager. I’ve worked with a few in the past, so I would like to continue my education if possible. I’m not looking to move away. I just want Everton to be successful. I want the new manager to come in and do a fantastic job. If I can be a part of that, then brilliant. I love the club and I love my job. If I go back to being a coach, then that’s fine by me.”


Prediction

Arsenal’s defensive depth is set to be tested with Kolasinac, Tierney and possibly Bellerin unavailable due to injuries. Every Everton attack should originate from wide areas, where they’re particularly strong, which should bring plenty of success on Saturday. Everton 2-1 Arsenal.