Martin Keown has told BT Sport (broadcast on 21/12; 12:00) that he has complete sympathy for Arsenal’s now-former interim boss Freddie Ljungberg and insisted that he cannot be held responsible for the Gunners’ form during his spell in charge.
Ljungberg endured a tough time after taking over from Unai Emery. He won one and lost two of his six games in charge.
The lack of a significant upturn in form following Emery’s departure must have influenced the Gunners’ decision to get Mikel Arteta in less than a month after his countryman left the Emirates.
But Keown has insisted that his former teammate does not deserve criticism for how the side performed in recent weeks, seemingly suggesting that it was something of a poisoned chalice.
“He has my complete sympathy really, because he’s come in, he’s kept calm, dignified. He’s tried to play the kids, he couldn’t get a reaction from some of the senior players. Ozil’s not even here today. So he’s done the best he can,” he told BT Sport.
“He’s had one win in six in all competitions which he’d have been disappointed with. But I think the problem was here long before Freddie and there was no magic wand from him. Emery came in, didn’t find the solutions to the problem at the back, midfield players. It’s still the same problem for Arteta. I expect him to maybe coach it better, a better balance for the team but at the same time, there’s going to be some purchases.”
What is perhaps interesting about Keown’s comments is that he appears to be suggesting that it was a nearly impossible task for Ljungberg. It will be intriguing to see how Arteta gets on given that he is also yet to take charge of his own side.
Of course, there is a key difference between the pair’s tenures. There was a significant sense of uncertainty surrounding Ljungberg’s spell. The players, along with Ljungberg himself, seemed in the dark regarding how long it would be before an appointment was made.
Arteta’s arrival brings an end to the uncertainty and provides some much-needed clarity. And Arsenal will be hoping that it is the catalyst for a dramatic turnaround for the Gunners.