Arsenal’s winless run continued with Freddie Ljungberg’s first Premier League game as boss ending in a draw against struggling Norwich. The Gunners, with Ljungberg at the helm on an interim basis after Unai Emery was sacked on Friday, have not won for eight games. The result leaves Arsenal eighth in the Premier League, seven points off a place in the top four, while Norwich remain 19th, three points from safety. While Arsenal started brightly, familiar defensive failings resurfaced as Teemu Pukki ended his eight-game goal drought with a shot that deflected off Shkodran Mustafi. The hosts’ lead only lasted eight minutes though, with Christoph Zimmermann penalised for handball and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang levelling for the visitors with a retaken penalty, after four Norwich players had encroached when his original effort was saved by Tim Krul.
More calamitous defending allowed Todd Cantwell to re-establish Norwich’s lead, with the midfielder slicing through the Gunners defence and placing an effort into the bottom corner on the stroke of half-time. However, Aubameyang again drew the visitors level, turning in a loose ball from a corner to ensure Arsenal gained a share of the points. Arsenal have a number of issues that they will need to resolve before they can hope to compete for a Premier League title again, and the most pressing remains in defence. The Gunners arrived in Norfolk having kept just two clean sheets in the league all season and left with the joint worst defensive record of any club in the top half of the table. An absence of leadership or quality in central defensive areas appears a fundamental flaw and not one easily addressed in the short term by Ljungberg.
Arsenal have bought defenders in recent years, but none fit the mould of a Tony Adams, Sol Campbell or Martin Keown, who were known for being commanding and who seemed to enjoy nullifying their direct opponents. For both Norwich goals, Arsenal’s current central defenders played a passive role. With the opener, David Luiz was not tight enough to prevent Pukki from turning once he had reached Kenny McLean’s ball forward. The Brazilian and his defensive partner Mustafi compounded matters by standing off and inviting the Finland forward to shoot. For Norwich’s second, Cantwell was allowed to run towards the Arsenal goal and Mustafi remained stationary as the England Under-21 international placed his effort into the far right corner from the left of the area. On a trying afternoon for Luiz and Mustafi, Pukki was unfortunate not to add to his tally after turning the German inside out. The duo were also thankful to goalkeeper Bernd Leno for pushing McLean’s effort on to the post after he had run through the centre of the Arsenal defence unchecked.