NORWICH, England (AP)Arsenal started life after Unai Emery with a 2-2 draw at Norwich in the Premier League on Sunday that extended the Gunners’ winless run to eight games in all competitions.
Interim manager Freddie Ljungberg insisted he would try and put smiles on the faces of Arsenal fans again, but his team would have left Carrow Road with a defeat had the Canaries not wasted several opportunities in the second half.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s double three days after Emery’s departure did little to lift the mood, with this encounter highlighting the problems facing the club’s former midfielder in their fight for a top-four finish.
“I was proud and honored to be allowed to stand there on the touchline and lead this great club,” Ljungberg said, adding he thinks the top four is still a reasonable target.
“We started extremely well, I thought we dominated it totally and found pockets and created chances. I probably expected us to take the lead and go from that.”
Norwich manager Daniel Farke would have been proud of his side, but left with mixed emotions following an entertaining contest with VAR heavily involved.
Ljungberg made five changes to the team that lost to Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday with Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette among those recalled.
Seemingly buoyed by the change, the Gunners dominated the opening exchanges and should have scored in the 10th minute, but Onel Hernandez denied Shkodran Mustafi a goal on his first Premier League appearance of the season with a clearance off the line.
Joe Willock, Lacazette and Calum Chambers had already wasted opportunities by this point and it felt like a matter of time before Arsenal turned their superiority into reward, but it was the hosts who struck against the run of play.
Hernandez won possession from Willock and found Kenny McLean, who waited for Teemu Pukki to make a run and the Finland striker duly delivered as his shot from 18 yards deflected in off Mustafi 21 minutes in. Arsenal’s poor defending allowed Pukki too much time and the striker duly struck to end his run of eight games without a goal for the Canaries.
It did not take long for Arsenal to be handed the opportunity to equalize and at the second attempt Aubameyang did so in the 29th.
Christoph Zimmermann handled Ozil’s cross and although Tim Krul saved the first penalty kick, the encroachment of several players saw it retaken. After scoring the last goal of the Emery era, the Gunners captain netted the first of Ljungberg’s.
The impressive McLean could have received a red card for a high lunging tackle on Matteo Guendouzi on the stroke of halftime, but referee Paul Tierney only showed a yellow and it was Norwich which made the most of the time added on.
In the second minute of stoppage time, McLean showed great composure to pick out Hernandez – who was again allowed to run at Arsenal’s defense – and he found academy graduate Cantwell, who slotted into the corner for his fourth goal of the season.
Ljungberg’s first halftime team talk saw the Gunners come out with renewed purpose and they equalized after 57 minutes when Aubameyang curled home, following Ozil’s corner, for his 10th league strike this season.
Ljungberg would have expected his players to kick on, but like in the opening 45 minutes they retreated after leveling and Norwich squandered three huge chances in the space of four minutes.
First McLean raced through, but saw Bernd Leno produce a wonderful save to deny him and then Cantwell fired wide from inside the area before Pukki got in again and yet again Arsenal’s goalkeeper stood tall to thwart him.
Second-from-bottom Norwich continued to ask questions and Max Aarons had two late efforts saved as Ljungberg ended his first match in charge watching his side clinging on for a point, which leaves them seven points off Chelsea in fourth.
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