Freddie Ljungberg

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.

Arsenal’s Pepe: Blame the players, not Freddie Ljungberg

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Arsenal continues to wobble despite its change of manager, and Nicolas Pepe says it’s not right to blame the interim boss.

The Gunners have one win, two draws, and two losses since the firing of Unai Emery, as interim boss Freddie Ljungberg has struggled to martial his team’s defense.

And, really, that tells you plenty about the quality of players at the Emirates Stadium.

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Even some of the club’s bright spots have made errors to help doom Ljungberg. Nicolas Pepe has been lively of late, but his non-committal defending of Fernandinho helped lead Man City’s first goal in Sunday’s loss.

“Freddie tries hard, he talks to us, but nothing has changed much in terms of results. It’s down to us the players, not the coach,” Pepe said, later adding, “Us players have to do better quickly. We have won only one game out of the last 12. It is not enough, we are Arsenal. It is about us, not the coach or anything else. We have to wake up quickly, starting against Everton.”

Pepe is Arsenal’s top-rated player according to advanced stats site WhoScored, and trails just Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Bernd Leno on SofaScore’s scale.

The latter tells you plenty, as Arsenal has a bevy of talented attackers but not much at all at the back and in the middle of the park. Maybe Mikel Arteta can fix it, or maybe any manager is going to need big investment in the January transfer window in order to help the Gunners get anywhere near the Top Four.

Arsenal’s 22 points will find it 10th should Crystal Palace and Brighton not draw on Monday. The Gunners are seven points off fourth place Chelsea and 27 points back of Liverpool.

Guardiola doesn’t rule out Arteta exit: ‘If he wants a job we are open to talk’

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Very few figures have been as supportive of Pep Guardiola throughout his successful stint with Manchester City as his right hand man and assistant Mikel Arteta.

[ JPW: Three things learned in London ]

After City’s 3-0 win over Arsenal on Sunday, Guardiola highlighted on the positive influence the 37-year-old has had on City’s recent glory, amid reports linking Arteta to Arsenal’s vacant manager role.

“[He has] a lot [of influence],” Guardiola told Sky Sports. “He is part of the huge success we had. An important part. What will happen will happen. I think he is part of our staff so what is going to happen I don’t know.

The storied manager doesn’t want his assistant to leave Manchester, but made it clear the last thing he wants to do is shoot down any possibilities of Arteta starting his managerial career. In Guardiola’s words, he doesn’t want the former Arsenal midfielder to feel “uncomfortable.”

“At the end it’s personal, if he wants a job we are open to talk,” he added. “I don’t want to make him uncomfortable.”

In a span of over three years, the two Spaniards have won a grand total of seven titles with City – two Premier Leagues, an FA Cup, two EFL Cups, and two FA Community Shields.

Following Arsenal’s loss to the defending champions at the Emirates, interim manager and Arsenal legend Freddie Ljungberg urged the club’s board to come to a decision on the managerial situation in North London.

“…I said I think it needs to be cleared up, to make a decision so everybody knows,” Ljungberg said. “That is something I’ve said but it is totally up to the club. I am very honored and I’m trying to do things as good as I can. I think it would be good to make a decision, regardless of what it is.”

From 2011 to 2016, Arteta played for the Gunners, making 110 appearances and scoring 14 goals. In 2016, the Spaniard retired following a 17-year career.

Ljungberg urges Arsenal to sort out manager situation

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LONDON — Freddie Ljungberg wants to know his future and that of Arsenal’s. Now.

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The Swedish coach is currently Arsenal’s interim boss but has endured mxed results in his first five games as manager, beating West Ham, losing to Man City and Brighton and drawing against Norwich and Standard Liege.

Hardly vintage stuff.

After their humbling 3-0 defeat at home against Manchester City on Sunday, Ljungberg was asked if the uncertainty around the managerial situation is impacting his players.

“As I’ve said to the club, for me it is a great, great honor to do this. Of course, Per [Mertesacker] is the academy manager and he’s doing two jobs in one go and I said I think it needs to be cleared up, to make a decision so everybody knows,” Ljungberg said. “That is something I’ve said but it is totally up to the club. I am very honored and I’m trying to do things as good as I can. I think it would be good to make a decision, regardless of what it is.”

Whispers around the press room at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday suggested that the Gunners are willing to wait until the summer to land the ‘right man’ for the job, and that means Ljungberg could be in temporary charge until May.

Right now nobody knows what is happening and Ljungberg is right. Now is the time to either stick or twist for the Gunners.

With away games against Everton and Bournemouth coming up in the next two, Arsenal’s players need some sort of answer so they can focus on winning those two games to set themselves up for crucial battles against fellow top four hopefuls Chelsea and Man United.

Ljungberg has shown the first signs of being a little fed up with playing the waiting game. Arsenal’s fans and players feel the same. Ljungberg has failed to change the tactics and his main plan is to set up the Gunners in an attacking system while their defensive deficiencies remain.

It’s time for the ownership group and the hierarchy at Arsenal to make a decision about the immediate future of the club. One way or another.

PL Sunday preview: Man United, Tottenham in action; Arsenal host Man City

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures promise to have it all as an in-form Manchester United host a new-era Everton; Wolves look to continue a historic unbeaten run against Jose Mourinho and company; and Arsenal take on Manchester City, who are in dire need of three points.

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Wolves vs. Tottenham  — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Just how much do Portuguese managers Jose Mourinho and Nuno Espirito Santo care about Sunday’s clash between their teams?

So much that both managers elected to omit key players during European midweek duty in order to have full-power lineups for a match that has serious implications on their chances of qualifying for European competition next year.

Wolves will have a fresh Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore, while Harry Kane will reappear for Spurs after being absent midweek against Bayern Munich. But the 26-year-old striker will not have any additional breaks ahead of a busy festive period, according to Mourinho.

For now, it’s tough to say who has the upper hand from resting key players. That said, Wolves had more players sidelined, and while two-thirds of the attack (Jimenez and Traore) watched Wolves pulverize Besiktas from the stands, Diogo Jota bagged a hat-trick.

With a club-record 12-match unbeaten run in Premier League play, there are no doubts that things are going well for Espirito Santo and company. They are the team to beat.

“[He] is getting some praise for the work he is doing,” Mourinho said ahead of the match. “In my opinion, not enough. He deserves more than what he is getting. Fantastic work.”

“He is a much better manager than a player. I’m not saying he was a bad player, but he’s a much better manager. Wolves are one of the best teams from a tactical point of view.”

If Spurs want to stand a chance, they’ll have to correct their defensive deficiencies. There’s a 99-percent chance Mourinho knows that already, though.

INJURIES: Wolves — OUT: Boly (leg), Gibbs-White (back)| Tottenham — OUT: Lamela (hamstring), Ndombele (groin), Vorm (calf), Lloris (elbow), Davies (ankle)

Manchester United vs. Everton — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

All of the parallels between Manchester United and Everton are conjoining at the Theater of Dreams on Sunday.

Around this time a year ago, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed caretaker of Manchester United. A former standout Red Devil, the task to take the helm of the club was not only a tall one given the popularity of Manchester United, but one that was emotionally taxing given his past with the team.

A year later, Duncan Ferguson – a striker who also made a name for himself in the ’90s – has the keys to the club that considers him a legend.

When the first whistle goes off, the subplots will evaporate, however.

Manchester United will go for their third consecutive league win since January, while Everton – still probably feeling the side effects of Marcelo Silva’s sacking – look for a second consecutive win in their new era. It’s not probable that it will be the case, but “Big Dunc” will go for it.

“It is going to be difficult for us but it’s one we will be up for,” he said. “United are on the up at the moment and they are a very good team. It will be a big ask but I am sure we can give a good account of ourselves.”

“I’d be on the roof if we get a win there,” he added. “But we can do it and that’s what we’ll try to do.”

INJURIES: Manchester United — OUT: Bailly (knee), Fosu-Mensah (knee), Pogba (ankle) | Everton — OUT: Walcott (calf), Schneiderlin (calf), Gbamin (thigh), Gomes (ankle)

Arsenal vs. Manchester City — 9:00 a.m ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Just how tough is the main job at Arsenal? If we strictly zero in on Freddie Ljungberg‘s latest request, it becomes apparent that managing the Gunners at this point in time comes with unique challenges and limitations that not every manager-in-the-making can bare.

The 42-year-old Arsenal legend, who is currently serving as Arsenal’s interim manager, is calling for the club’s board to swiftly come to a resolution in their search for a full-time manager, according to The Guardian.

In three league matches at the helm of Arsenal, Ljungberg has earned four points – losing only to Brighton 2-1 at the Emirates. That said, the former winger has yet to face a side that sits higher than his team on the table.

That will change with Manchester City visiting on Sunday.

Looking to bounce back from their Manchester Derby defeat, Pep Guardiola reveled that he’s studied his opponent’s new look, although when going against the North London team, it’s all about not letting them feel comfortable.

“I have not watched the previous games with Unai,” he says “I watched the games they played with Ljungberg to try to figure out what they’ll try to do.”

“But normally Arsenal have a typical style of play. If you let them play, they have the quality to play. Arsenal away is always a big test for any team.”

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Ceballos (thigh), Xhaka (concussion), Holding (knee), Tierney (shoulder) | Manchester City — OUT: Agüero (thigh), Stones (thigh), Laporte (knee), Sané (knee)