Arsenal side’s disastrous run of form continues with a 2-1 defeat against Brighton at the Emirates.
The Gunners were woeful during the first half of the Swede’s first home game since taking temporary charge, but improved after the break as Alexandre Lacazette’s header cancelled out Adam Webster’s opener. However, former Brentford striker Neal Maupay struck ten minutes from time to earn the Seagulls all three points and leave their opponents without a win in nine games.
Ljungberg made three changes to the side that had started his first game in charge, the 2-2 draw at Norwich. Headline was the inclusion of Lucas Torreira in a defensive midfield role, a position in which Unai Emery had seemed bizarrely reluctant to deploy him, while Hector Bellerin and Sokratis were preferred to Calum Chambers and Shkodran Mustafi, the latter not even among the substitutes.
The thousands of empty seats at kick-off served as a reminder of the sense of disengagement that – despite Ljungberg’s presence in the dugout – now plagues the club, and there was little from the hosts to suggest they’d listened to the manager’s pre-match instruction to change the atmosphere inside the ground with their play on the field.
Instead, it was the visitors who bossed possession, keeping the ball nicely, and Aaron Connolly came within inches of opening the scoring when somehow failing to apply the finishing touch to Maupay’s cross-cum-shot which flashed across the face of goal.
Still, Graham Potter’s impressive side did not have to wait long to take the lead their dominance deserved, as Webster fired home smartly after the Gunners had failed to clear a corner, and ensure Arsenal’s run without a clean sheet would extend to 11 games.
Joe Willock went close to an instant response, his header kept out by the feet of Mat Ryan after excellent work from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang down the right, but a mix-up between the same two players saw Arsenal’s next attack break down, summing up another disjointed first-half display.
Boos greeted the whistle, as they had in the final days of the Emery era, and Ljungberg responded by sending record signing Nicolas Pepe on in place of Joe Willock, and shifting Mesut Ozil into his favoured central role.
Pepe’s arrival had an immediate impact, as he tested semi-makeshift left-back Dan Burn, and it was from a corner won down his side that the Gunners levelled. Lacazette had cut a frustrated figure in the opening period, particularly aggrieved at having numerous penalty appeals waved away after shirt pulls by Pascal Gross, but he got the better of his marker here, winning a flick-on at the near post that found its way in at the far.
Suddenly the Emirates was alive, and both Gunners fullbacks whipped tempting crosses across the face of goal as the pressure built, though it still took a terrific piece of goalkeeping from Bernd Leno to deny Maupay from close range.
Arsenal briefly thought they’d taken the lead when David Luiz volleyed home from Ozil’s free-kick, but quite why it took a VAR intervention to establish that the Brazilian was one of five red shirts in an offside position is anyone’s’ guess.
But as any Emirates regular well knows, disaster is never far away at the moment, and when Maupay’s terrific glancing header sailed beyond Leno and into the far corner, the Gunners were condemned to their fourth League defeat of the season.