Arsenal will count themselves as fortunate to have escaped Carrow Road with a point after a controversial VAR penalty decision helped them to a 2-2 draw at Norwich in Freddie Ljungberg’s first game as caretaker manager.
Unai Emery may have been dispatched last week but Arsenal’s winless run in the league has continued under new temporary boss Ljungberg and now stretches to six games (D4, L2) in what has been the worst start to a top flight campaign since 1975 – and it could easily have been worse.
Arsenal began brightly but the defensive frailties which have characterized their recent form showed themselves again as Norwich’s Finnish striker Teemu Pukki scored his first goal since September.
Controversy followed on the half hour as Arsenal were awarded a penalty after a handball from Norwich’s towering German defender Christoph Zimmermann but new skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw his effort saved by Tim Krul before VAR intervened and determined that the penalty must be retaken after a Norwich player was deemed to have ‘encroached’ in the area as the penalty was being taken.
Aubameyang made no mistake with his second effort.
Freddie Ljungberg has to settle for a point in his first match in charge of Arsenal – but the VAR call to re-take a penalty saved by Norwich keeper Tim Krul was the big talking point from Carrow Road.
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 1, 2019
I actually think this rule is a good one, no one wants to see a penalty retaken if someone encroaches & that’s what it does, but if they impact the game it has to be retaken. #NORARShttps://t.co/PashIquiwL
— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) December 1, 2019
Krul did the same thing twice against Utd and nothing was done about it. No consistency at all with VAR
— Kane (@Kanecto) December 1, 2019
Todd Cantwell made another mockery of the Arsenal rearguard just prior to half time, gliding unchallenged through the Gunners’ midfield to slot a shot past German ‘keeper Bernd Leno on the stroke of half-time before Aubameyang once again proved to be Arsenal’s savior as he reacted first to a loose ball in the penalty area to even the scores.
Norwich frantically pushed forward as the game ticked towards its conclusion but spurned several opportunities to claim three points against an Arsenal who, while under new management, are displaying the same old shortcomings.
Arsenal fans turning on Freddie Ljungberg in the space of 80 minutes and you’re telling me AFTV hasn’t influenced English football. https://t.co/uxFiYvKCdC
— James Benge (@jamesbenge) December 1, 2019
You know, Ljungberg drawing isn’t a vindication of Emery, considering that Freddie’s only been in a charge a few days and Emery was/is terrible. This isn’t an ideal result, but let’s not be this naive.
— Zito (@_Zeets) December 1, 2019
Not fair to lay a terrible performance here at Ljungberg’s feet. He’s had one training session.But the XI he selected and opting to bring on Saka over Pepe is, umm, not a very promising start to this mini-era.
— Sam Tighe (@stighefootball) December 1, 2019
“We started the game really well, that’s how I want to play football,” Ljungberg said after the match. “But we need to work on the transitions, we dominated and they break us too easily.
“In the beginning I saw a lot of things we worked on in training, but we need to score goals and take the lead. I want this club to do well, it is only winning that counts: I wanted to win the games so I am disappointed but I have also seen some positive things.
As for the penalty incident(s), Ljungberg was defended the decision-making of the VAR officials.
“I think I had a heart-attack twice!” he joked. “But from what I heard it was quite obvious, that’s what the results are for.
“The most important thing was for Aubameyang to have the mental strength to score the second penalty after missing the first one.”
Ljungberg will have his next opportunity to arrest his team’s decline when they welcome Brighton to The Emirates on Thursday.