Freddie Ljungberg off the mark as Arsenal outlook changes in space of nine minutes

By Mirror: Tuesday, December 10th 2019 at 09:08 GMT +3 | Football
Nicolas Pepe celebrates with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Image: Courtesy)

The away end finally had something to cheer about in what seemed like the first time in months.

In the space of nine minutes, the mood completely changed from one of utter despair to an away win which finally gets Freddie Ljungberg off the mark as caretaker boss.

They were celebrating by singing: “We are staying up” with more than a touch of irony to renditions of chants about Ljungberg from his glory days as a player.

Ljungberg and his players went over to the travelling fans at the final whistle to enjoy the moment after Gabriel Martinelli, Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored to turn the game on its head.

Arsenal got their first win in ten games, went from being utterly woeful in the first half to a rampant away performance which turns the heat on West Ham and puts Manuel Pellegrini back under pressure.

Arsenal's Nicolas Pepe scores (Image: REUTERS)

It just shows what confidence can do because, for the first hour, Arsenal were awful, unable to string passes together and a team looking like they had forgotten how to win.

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They were stuck in the middle of their worst run for 42 years and Ljungberg looked like a man unable to inspire a bunch of underperforming prima donnas.

Mesut Ozil was anonymous, Martinelli looked lost and Aubameyang a million miles away from being captain material. It was no wonder they were booed off by their own fans at half time after failing to manage a shot on target.

West Ham were far from good but at least they had something about them, they looked ready to battle and fight whereas Arsenal had lost their way through the dog days of Unai Emery’s failed reign.

Ljungberg rang the changes again desperately looking for a reaction after failing to get a win from his first two games at Norwich and then the defeat at home to Brighton on Thursday.

But even dropping David Luiz and Alexandre Lacazette did not seem to change it while Hector Bellerin was injured in the warm-up and Ainsley Maitland-Niles stepped in while Kieran Tierney then went off injured. It never rains but it pours.

Sure enough, West Ham took a 38th minute lead. Robert Snodgrass’s corner was not cleared, Pablo Fornals put the ball back into the box and Aneglo Ogbonna’s header deflected in off Maitland-Niles.

The goal survived a lengthy VAR check even though it was clear it hit Ogbonna’s shoulder rather than his arm.

It did not get much better for the visitors after half time as Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno, who has been one of few players to do themselves justice of late, saved well from Declan Rice and then Robert Snodgrass had a shot deflected wide after Granit Xhaka’s clumsy pass.

It left the Arsenal fans fearing the worst. But, from nowhere, came three goals in nine minutes. Lucas Torreira started the 60th minute move, spread the ball wide to Sead Kolasinac, Rice went to sleep and Martinelli fired home the cross with a brilliant finish.

Suddenly Arsenal believed. Six minutes later, they were level with a brilliant goal from Pepe who actually played well all night, showing hunger and determination to run at defenders.

The £72m record signing stormed forward, cut inside from the right and then unleashed a brilliant curling shot to beat West Ham keeper David Martin.

Three minutes later, it was job done. Ozil had gone from being anonymous to running the show. Ozil found Aubameyang, his back heel found Pepe and then he provided the assist for Aubameyang to fire home a third.

Suddenly Arsenal fans were jubilant while the familiar moans and groans crept in among the home supporters who suddenly find themselves nervously looking over their shoulders while Ljungberg has the luxury of mid-table.

 

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