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.
New boss same leaky defence
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.
While Norwich may remain in the bottom three, they can consider themselves unfortunate not to have claimed back-to-back Premier League wins for the first time since April 2016.
They matched the Gunners for shots on target and arguably had better chances overall in a performance full of energy, grit and determination.
Pukki’s willing running provided an outlet from which to launch attacks, while Ibrahim Amadou showed plenty of industry in midfield and Max Aarons was solid at right-back.
Daniel Farke’s side also appear to have been buoyed by the renewal of their first-choice central defensive partnership – Christoph Zimmermann and Ben Godfrey.
The solidity of that pairing was noticeable when the Canaries captain returned from injury at Everton eight days ago, and while the German conceded a penalty here he was otherwise excellent.
The 26-year-old read the game in exemplary fashion throughout and completed more clearances (eight) than any other player.
Man of the match – Max Aarons (Norwich)
‘Only winning that counts’ – what they said
Arsenal interim manager Freddie Ljungberg told Sky Sports: “We started the game really well, that’s how I want to play football.
“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.
On the penalty incident: “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.”
Norwich manager Daniel Farke told Match of the Day: “We put a great performance today against a great side: one point against Arsenal is always a great result. But we deserved to take all the three points.
“In general I was not happy with the quality of the decisions, each and every throw-in or corner-kick was given against us. Also the situation that led to the penalty against us, it was never a free kick on [Granit] Xhaka.
“And to retake this penalty was also a strange decision, just because somebody’s foot was inside the area. There were some strange decisions against us. But also because of some top-class saves from Leno we have not been able to win this game.”
Arsenal’s worst run for eight years – the stats
- Arsenal are now winless in six Premier League games (D4 L2), their worst run since August 2011 (also a run of six).
- Norwich City have avoided defeat in back-to-back Premier League matches for the first time this season.
- Since his Premier League debut in February 2018, Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored 27 goals in games played on Sundays – more than any other player has scored on a day of the week in that time.
- Norwich City’s Teemu Pukki ended a run of 18 shots and 773 minutes without a Premier League goal, scoring his first league goal since September against Manchester City.
- Arsenal have won none of their past 40 away Premier League matches when losing at half-time (D10 L30) since a 5-3 win at Chelsea in October 2011.
Norwich travel to St Mary’s to face fellow strugglers Southampton in the Premier League on Wednesday (19:30 GMT). Arsenal host Brighton in their next Premier League game on Thursday (20:15 GMT).