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Arsenal booed off after being beaten by Brighton

Interim boss Ljungberg admits that his side are 'lacking confidence' as the Gunners wait for a win reaches nine games

05 December, 2019 — By Paul Cowling at the Emirates Stadium

Premier League

ARSENAL 1 (Lacazette 50)
BRIGHTON 2 (Webster 36, Maupay 80)

FREDDIE Ljungberg’s managerial homecoming was scuppered by Brighton, leaving mid-table Arsenal without a league win in two months.

With only youth coaching to his name, and after just two games, the Premier League is already proving to be a tough nut to crack for Ljungberg.

Far from being smash and grab, the south coast visitors, edged possession, had 20 efforts on goal, of which nine were on target, and were by far the better team.

Defeat for the Gunners now leaves them 10 points off a Champions League slot in 10th position. After the match, which left the home fans booing, Ljungberg dealt confidently with a flurry of questions.

When reminded that the Gunners were also “five points off relegation”, Ljungberg just said: “We won’t look down, up or sideways. It’s disappointing to lose the match.

“We were passive. We just didn’t turn up in the first half. The players are short of confidence.”

It had all been so different before the match: Ljungberg got a hug from Gunnersaurus and Charlie George as he arrived for his first match at the Emirates Stadium since replacing Unai Emery as interim manager last week.

The popular Swede made three changes from the debut 2-2 draw at Norwich, with Hector Bellerin, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Lucas Torreira coming into the starting line up.

Brighton were dominant in a cagey, somewhat scrappy opening quarter, and came close to opening the scoring when the pint-size Aaron Connolly just failed to connect with a dangerous pass.

The Seagulls were swarming all over the Arsenal half of the pitch, so it came as little surprise when they did take the lead. Defender Adam Webster smashed home after goalmouth scramble, sending some Gunners fans in search of early half time hot dogs.

Arsenal’s reply was almost instant, but they were denied an equaliser as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang header was blocked by Matthew Ryan’s ankles in the Brighton goal.

On the stroke of half time Aubameyang went into a fit of rage, and the crowd did too, as Joe Willock’s wasteful pass to the Gabonese striker went out for a goal kick.

Arsenal must have had a dressing room rollocking from Ljungberg, because they came out at a much faster tempo in the second half.

In the 50th minute, it was 1-1. Alexandre Lacazette got his head on Mesut Ozil’s corner and forced home a scrappy equaliser off the far post. Brighton claimed offside, but VAR said otherwise.

Just after the hour mark VAR was used to overturn a Gunners’ goal. Five Arsenal players, including hopeful goalscorer David Luiz, moved too early for a free kick, and – although the assistant referee somehow missed it – were offside. Referee Graham Scott consulted the technology and the score stayed at 1-1.

Arsenal fans were excitedly getting out of their seats as their favourites swept forward in the ascendency. But Brighton withstood the assault, and gradually grew back into the game.

The visiting Seagulls swooped for a late winner when French striker Neal Maupay glanced home a header in the 80th minute. Ljungberg looked on in disbelief – this wasn’t the managerial home debut most had predicted.

Substitutes Kieran Tierney and Gabriel Martinelli combined in the 87th minute, but Martinelli’s goal-bound header was somehow scrambled away by Ryan, who pawed the ball out for an Arsenal corner.

There were four minutes of added on time for an Arsenal equaliser. But again it was Brighton who should have scored a third, substitute Leandro Trossard blasting over Bernd Leno’s goal.

But, it didn’t matter: 30 seconds later there were loud boos from Arsenal fans as Brighton won on Ljungberg’s parade.

“We’re in a difficult situation, we’ve lost a lot of games and the confidence has gone down,” admitted Ljungberg. “We started the game flat with no energy. It’s my job to get them to be aggressive and play with energy.”

ARSENAL: Leno; Bellerin, Sokratis, Luiz, Kolasinac (Tierney 72); Xhaka, Torreira, Willock (Pepe 45); Ozil; Aubaymeyang; Lacazette (Martinelli 77)
Substitutes not used: Chambers, Nelson, Martinez, Guendouzi

BRIGHTON: Ryan, Alzate, Webster, Dunk, Burn; Propper, Stephens; Mooy, Gross (Trossard 80); Maupay, Connolly (Montoya 76)
Substitutes not used: Duffy, Bissouma, Murray, Button, Bernardo

Attendance: 60,164

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