Ljungberg calls on senior Arsenal stars to halt 'downward spiral'
Interim Arsenal manager Freddie Ljungberg has called on his senior players to step up and haul the Gunners out of their worst run in 42 years.
Thursday night’s home defeat to Brighton means the Gunners have now gone nine games without a win in all competitions and they head into Monday's game at West Ham sitting 10 points adrift of the top four.
Arsenal were booed off the pitch once again following Brighton’s victory at Emirates Stadium, with Ljungberg admitting after the game that his players looked scared and didn’t want the ball in the first half.
And the 42-year-old knows that can’t happen again on Monday night if the Gunners are to claim their first win since beating Bournemouth 1-0 in October.
“We need to change this downward spiral,” said Ljungberg. “They [West Ham] have great fans, it’s going to be a great occasion but maybe that is good for our players, they can relax a little bit and concentrate on the game.”
Since replacing Unai Emery, who was sacked last month, Ljungberg has largely opted for experience when choosing his starting XIs for the games against Norwich and Brighton.
Mesut Ozil started both and appears to be firmly back in the fold following the difficulties he suffered under Emery and Ljungberg says his decision to go with the German and other senior players is due to the situation Arsenal find themselves in.
Mesut is a very, very good football player,” said the Swede. “When he is on the ball and he can do things and things happen.
“I haven’t said I’m going to build the team against specific players but I wanted to play the experienced players when it’s such a difficult situation like it is at the moment.
“I've made a conscious choice to put down the older players to take the responsibility and change the games.”
One youngster Ljungberg has turned to, however, is Joe Willock - who has started both of his games in charge so far.
But against Brighton he was substituted at half-time following a poor opening 45 minutes, with Nicolas Pepe replacing him for the second half.
Ljungberg admits it was a difficult decision to haul off the 20-year-old but insists the attacking midfielder remains very much part of his plans.
“I had Joe on the pitch because I wanted power and speed,” said Ljungberg. “He has something that we don’t really have in the squad, But Joe was passive like everyone else.
“I felt I would make a change and we had Nico to get his chance to show and I thought he did that well.
“He showed intensity, he tried to dribble and he worked defensively well to get the ball back. So that was a positive.”
Arsenal’s miserable run of form has seen them fall to within just four points of the Premier League relegation zone.
They are now closer to the bottom three than they are the top four, although victory at West Ham will see them move to with seven points of fourth-placed Chelsea.
And Ljungberg remains adamant that his side are still in with a shout of securing a Champions League spot.
“I don’t think we should stop talking about the top four,” he said.
“But for us it’s about concentrating on what we’re doing here now and not look up, down, sideways. We just need to work on our own game and our own confidence.”
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