We love you, Freddie…
And as quick as a flash, the game is here. Forty-eight hours ago, Freddie Ljungberg walked into London Colney wondering how Unai would approach this fixture and wandered onto the training pitches wondering how he would do the same.
Today, we find out.
It’s a free pass for Freddie today. Josh Kroenke’s admission that The Muppet Show have been talking about replacing Emery for weeks compounds last week’s dereliction of duty in not removing the Spaniard to give Ljungberg a full week’s preparation time.
The Muppet Show are no longer the dream team of last summer; they are a nightmare cabal of shoddy management who have a lot of work to do to regain the respect they won after the transfer window. The Spaniard, in particular, faces intense scrutiny.
But that’s for another day; today, it’s all about Freddie. His appointment added some zip to the game that most of us probably regarded as ‘meh’. The enthusiasm for the Swede’s appointment will buy him more goodwill than any other head coach can dream of gaining.
A win can only increase that but let’s face it, in 48 hours he isn’t going to make a major tactical innovation. This is all about him improving the players’ application and performances.
It’s about improving the mood. Referring to his time at Wolfsburg and probably at West Ham United, Ljungberg observed:
I’ve had experience of players and staff being very down and low and there are things you can do and what we will do. At the end of the day, if you play good football and have results there’s nothing better than that to raise spirits.Freddie on being down and out in the Bundesliga
We Was Getting Nowhere
When it comes to his own team, it’s Per Mertesacker for the moment and that’s it. Despite fantasies of an Invincibles reunion, Gilberto Silva hasn’t been contacted and neither has Dennis Bergkamp. Maybe the latter will come now we’ve got the flight to Norwich out of the way?
Similarly, I’ve yet to see any kind of reason for Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira to leave Montreal or Nice beyond the Arsenal bat signal shining high over the London skyline. Maybe that’s the warning hiring an inexperienced manager brings: who does he hire to bring his ideas to fruition.
And he could do with a busy transfer window to sign new defenders. So far this season, the only central defensive pairing which hasn’t been disastrous is Mustafi and Holding in the Europa League. How does Ljungberg solve problems like Luiz and Sokratis?
The former gave him an excuse: the injury suffered against Eintracht means he can be left out. Sokratis? He may get a stay of execution if we run a back three or Hector Bellerin doesn’t pass his fitness test.
It’s a flavour of themes running through the team. The right combinations eluded Unai Emery as did a consistent playing style. Freddie recognises that but has his own way of thinking:
I’ve been at Arsenal for a long, long, long time, I like entertaining football but of course at the same time you can’t concede goals. That’s a tricky balance to find. For me, happy footballers play the best football. That’s a part I learnt as a player, there is a time to work hard but at the same time we need to enjoy what we’re doing. Often the players we have enjoy playing offensive football which makes them happy.Music to the ears but will reality prove a cacophony?
So We Had A Cuppa Tea
“Entertaining football” covers a multitude of sins. The Keystone Kops were entertaining but I’ve suffered enough as they inhabited our defence.
While the focus is on the interim head coach, the focus is also on the players. The notion they downed tools on Emery was ridiculed but we’ll find out if there’s any truth in that by their performance today, both individually and collectively.
Defending as a unit was the remit of the coach but inside that, players individual responsibility was to concentrate. Few, if any, achieved that consistently. It’s not just about doing that in Freddie’s first game, can they continue to do that through to the end of the season because that is the expectation at Arsenal.
Curiously, some seem to be rejoicing that Mesut Özil outlasted Emery. Will he outlast Freddie? Not if he doesn’t start delivering £300k per week performances. While he’s had the last laugh on the Spaniard, I believe now the pressure is really on and in those circumstances, the German inevitably disappears. No doubt there will be a few colds and illnesses surfacing.
Not everything is sweetness and light. There are still lingering issues to be dealt with.
Hopefully, the denouement of Bernard Cribbins epic won’t prove a warning we should have heeded.
“You see the trouble with Fred is, he’s too hasty
You’ll never get nowhere if you’re too hasty.”
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.