The so-called ‘honeymoon period’ that sees new managers enjoy their first few games and sees victory roll in hasn’t quite transpired for Freddie Ljungberg.
The Swede has seen his side draw and lose two games that on paper, should have been very much winnable. No disrespect to Norwich and Brighton, but they will be happy with another season in the Premier League and yet, they were arguably better than us.
The away game at Carrow Road saw us limit the Canaries in terms of shots against us when compared to Unai Emery’s last few months – but Brighton put us to the sword at The Emirates and we again slipped into bad habits.
Yet, we have attacked with a bit more verve and freedom than we did under Emery, and against Brighton we looked like from the moment we came out for the second half, we were going to take the points. We didn’t though, and Ljungberg is looking at no wins from two.
He will be under no illusions the task at hand. We need to be winning these games, pure and simple. We are looking further away from contention than at any point since Wenger left, and next up is West Ham.
The Hammers bought well in the summer and Manuel Pellegrini would have been looking further up the table than they currently reside. They are struggling and one of the managers most under pressure is Pellegrini himself. He will have targets set by his board this season and he is failing to deliver.
Still, they defeated Frank Lampard’s Chelsea recently and are at home. They have the talent across the board to exploit any weaknesses we have and at this point, there’s more than a few of them.
Freddie needs to deliver. He’s away from home and we haven’t won on the road since the opening day of the season.
Who does he go for in his side?
Dani Ceballos remains sidelined and Rob Holding will miss out too. Hector Bellerin made his return in our loss to Brighton, but after just returning, may well be on the bench for this one, with Calum Chambers the likely replacement.
Does Ljungberg shake things up here? The second half response from his side saw his midfield work and put in tackles. That could mean an unchanged centre. But one of the catalysts for our resurgence in that game, Nicolas Pepe, may well have played himself into contention with his cameo.
Does that mean Freddie drops Lacazette or Ozil and continues with three up top? Or does he go for the quartet and names all four including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? Is there safety in attacking numbers?
It’s all uncertain and plenty of questions remain.
Player to Watch
The Hammers have plenty of dangermen – Yarmolenko, Cresswell, Antonio, Fornals, Snodgrass – But Anderson, when in the mood, is the best of the lot. The Brazilian could stretch our fragile defence out of shape easily, and if we back off like we normally do, then he is more than willing to have a pop. He will be looking forward to seeing the havoc he can wreak.
How This Could Go
Ask any Gooner and they will not be looking forward to any fixture right now. We have to concentrate on the positives though, as few as there are.
We are attacking in the right way, we are starting to hold it together for at least a half at a time – we just need to do it for a whole game. This is the worst we have been in about two decades, so the only way is up.
The cumulative experience of Per Mertesacker and Freddie should allow some semblance of improvement to seep in and we could start to see it here. The Hammers are far from impervious and have shown plenty of chinks in their armour, if we can outscore them, then we have a chance.
We can’t hope for a clean sheet, that seems like a pipe dream right now, but we can hope for goals. Put them under pressure at home and they could flake.
Predicted Linuep – Leno, Chambers, Sokratis, Luiz, Tierney, Torreira, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Pepe, Ozil, Aubameyang
Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal