Norwich 2-2 Arsenal: Ljungberg’s first game in charge ends level but Gunners show signs of improvement
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Arsenal drew 2-2 with Norwich City in Freddie Ljungberg’s first game as caretaker boss on Sunday, with some clear signs of improvement despite a somewhat disappointing result at Carrow Road.
Teemu Pukki opened the scoring on 21 minutes when his shot deflected off Shkodran Mustafi following some questionable Gunners defending.
But, Arsenal levelled things up with the help of VAR on 28 minutes as they were given a penalty following a Christoph Zimmermann hand ball. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw his spot kick saved by Tim Krul, but encroachment saw it retaken and scored by the captain.
The Canaries went into half-time ahead though as Todd Cantwell was allowed too much time and space to tuck home, but Aubameyang levelled on 57 minutes with a cool finish.
Ljungberg opted for a 4-2-3-1, with Granit Xhaka making his first Premier League appearance since October 27 when his outburst against Crystal Palace cost him the club captaincy.
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Mustafi was also drafted into the defence for his first league start this season having impressed in the Europa League, with Sokratis dropping to the bench.
The Gunners had a big chance inside four minutes as Joe Willock's shot was well blocked before Alexandre Lacazette latched onto the lose ball and scuffed his effort on the edge of the six-yard box.
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They should have gone ahead on nine minutes when Mustafi beat Tim Krul to a corner, but his header was cleared off the line by Onel Hernandez.
Despite a promising start for Ljungberg's men, they fell behind on 21 minutes with questionable defending their undoing.
As the Canaries broke forward at pace, a run from Pukki down the middle wasn't dealt with, and then Mustafi and David Luiz failed to close him down on the edge of the box.
The shot from the Finnish striker deflected off Mustafi, fizzing across the turf and past Bernd Leno to put the hosts ahead.
Norwich's lead didn't last long though as Arsenal levelled the score on 28 minutes.
A floated Mesut Ozil free-kick hit the hand of Canaries skipper Christoph Zimmermann and referee Paul Tierney pointed to the penalty spot.
Aubameyang stepped up and went left, but so did Krul as the Dutchman kept out the spot kick. However, VAR spotted Norwich players encroaching in the box and the kick had to be retaken, with the Arsenal captain going the same way and scoring.
But, defending cost the visitors again on the stroke of half-time as Hernandez broke forward and found Cantwell in acres of space on the edge of the box, and he slotted home to send the Canaries into the break ahead.
Arsenal battled back after the interval though and found an equaliser with 57 minutes on the clock.
A corner played in fell to the feet of Mustafi who saw his effort blocked, but Aubameyang was on hand to curl the ball past Krul and level the score.
They then had Leno to thank for keeping it that way as more poor defending allowed Kenny McLean through, but the goalkeeper made a superb fingertip save to keep his shot out.
The German was needed moments later as Pukki left Mustafi in a tangle before firing goalward, but Arsenal's number one made himself big to block.
Leno had to make two more crucial stops late on as Norwich pressed for a winner, but the spoils were shared after an entertaining game at Carrow Road.
Despite the result, the Gunners will take some positives from an improved performance after a torrid run of form under the now sacked Unai Emery.