No one was under any illusions about how deep the problems at Arsenal go.
No one really thought the sacking of Unai Emery would be a move which would turn the Gunners around overnight. But Arsenal’s first game under interim manager Freddie Ljungberg showed just how far they have fallen.
Norwich are an ambitious and exciting side to watch who were on the up following their 2-0 away win over Everton, but Arsenal made their task much easier than it should have been.
A 2-2 draw in which Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goals came from the penalty spot and a second ball from a corner was not an inspiring start for Ljungberg.
Arsenal are now without a win across eight games in all competitions and are being hamstrung by the same issues. They have 19 points and are eighth in the Premier League, seven points off the top four.
No team with fewer than 21 points after 14 Premier League games has ever finished in the top four, but Ljungberg is convinced the Gunners can do it.
“People drop points here and there, we drop points, so it’s a bit of a crazy league at the moment,” he said post-match. “But of course I think Arsenal can go back to the top four.”
Whoever succeeds Emery in the long term will have to make history to secure Champions League football next season.
He was made to wait for it by the video assistant referee, but Kelechi Iheanacho ultimately enjoyed his best day in a Leicester shirt today, coming off the bench to give Brendan Rodgers’ side their sixth straight win.
Rodgers deserves a lot of credit for introducing the Nigerian striker. Iheanacho hadn’t scored in the league since September 2018 but Rodgers knew he could change the game, throwing him on for Ayoze Perez in the 62nd minute when Everton were leading 1-0 thanks to Richarlison’s header.
Iheanacho’s pace and direct running in the channels gave Jamie Vardy a strike partner and he had a near-instant impact, crossing for the league’s top scorer to fire in the equaliser. Vardy put a header over the bar and Everton appeared to be hanging on to give Marco Silva a much-needed point, but a Mason Holgate slip allowed Iheanacho in on goal and he cooly found the bottom corner in injury-time to win it.
The goal, dramatically confirmed after VAR corrected the linesman’s flag, closed the gap at the top of the Premier League to eight points and ensured Liverpool are not out of sight yet.
Iheanacho’s performance was an indication of the squad depth Leicester have quietly assembled and the wild celebrations showed their team spirit.
The entirety of the Manchester United’s side which played Aston Villa today were excused from the midweek trip to Kazakhstan to face Astana in the Europa League, but watching on at Old Trafford you wouldn’t have known it.
Like Arsenal, United have myriad problems. The 2-2 draw left them with just four wins and two clean sheets in 14 Premier League games. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are in fact unbeaten at home in the league, but their tendency to ship goals is cancelling out the good work being done by Marcus Rashford and others at the other end.
Yes, Jack Grealish’s opener was a wonderful piece of individual skill, but the lack of urgency in closing down encouraged the shot. Tyrone Mings’ equaliser was so straightforward – a volley from Matt Targett’s chipped pass on the second phase after a corner – that the defensive organisation needs to be questioned.
“As a team we are improving but we want to improve a lot more. To not win games at home is disappointing. We huffed and puffed but we need to do better,” said defender Harry Maguire.
“We were poor after their first goal. It knocked us and we were edgy and nervous. To concede straight away after going in front its disappointing.”
Next up, Jose Mourinho returns to Old Trafford with Tottenham on Wednesday. If there was ever a game Solskjaer wanted to win, it’s this one.