In Depth

Abject, dire and toxic: it’s open warfare at the Mayhemirates as Arsenal lose again

Gunners are on their worst run of form since 1977

Premier League Arsenal 1 Brighton & Hove Albion 2 

The last time Arsenal were in such a winless rut, Margaret Thatcher was still dreaming of becoming prime minister and the Bay City Rollers were the kings of pop. 

It was 1977, the year Freddie Ljungberg was born, and the caretaker Arsenal boss probably wished last night that he hadn’t as the Emirates swayed to the sound of bitter disgust.

Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat to Brighton - the first time the Seagulls have beaten the Gunners away - means that they are now without a win in their last nine matches in all competitions, and it’s exactly two months since they last tasted victory in the Premier League. 

The boos that greeted the final whistle must have been an alien sound for Ljungberg, who as an Arsenal player more than a decade ago knew nothing but success. 

There was also the unedifying sight of players arguing among themselves with Mesut Ozil also apparently involved in an altercation with assistant manager Per Mertesacker.

Clueless Arsenal

Ten points off a Champions League qualification spot, Arsenal are, in the words of The Times headline “clueless, spineless, rudderless”.

It is now inconceivable that Ljungberg will get the manager’s job on a full-time basis; the expected bounce that everyone expected when, seven days ago, he stepped into the breach vacated by Unai Emery, hasn’t materialised. 

The players fit the Times’s description, suggesting that the malaise is deep and that the healing process will only begin by getting rid of the many players whose hearts don’t appear to be in the job. 

If it means buying some players out of their lucrative contract, so be it, but the likes of Ozil, Lucas Torreira, Granit Xhaka and David Luiz must go and players with hunger arrive.

Arsenal players react after Brighton’s winner at the Emirates Stadium

Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Soft centre

None of them appeared that keen to put in a good performance for the sake of Ljungberg, nor the fans, those that showed up. 

There were once more an alarming number of empty seats at the Emirates, further evidence of the crisis that has enveloped this famous old club. 

A team that once boasted never-say-die warriors such as Pat Rice, David O’Leary, Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira now has the softest of centres, and it was to no one’s great surprise when Adam Webster put Brighton ahead ten minutes before the break, the big defender taking advantage of sloppy marking at a corner to stab the ball into the net.

Have a crack

Ljungberg revealed that his half-time team talk consisted of telling the dressing room: “This is not Arsenal, we have to give it a crack.” 

They did show a bit more purpose after the break with Alexandre Lacazette heading them level on 50 minutes, but it didn’t herald a major revival. 

Instead Brighton worked themselves back into the game and ten minutes from time Neal Maupay headed their winner from Aaron Mooy’s cross.

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Reactions to Arsenal’s loss 

Freddie Ljungberg, interim Arsenal boss

“It was tough. We didn’t show up in the first half, didn’t work hard and didn’t want to play. You can’t start like that.” 

Will Griffee, Daily Mail

“There was a toxic atmosphere at full-time with boos from the home supporters reverberating in the ears of the Arsenal players. Freddie Ljungberg’s side were abject.”

Henry Winter, The Times

“The problems at Arsenal go far deeper than the identity of the man in the dugout. The club’s soft.”

Alex Richards, Daily Mirror

“It was deserved, after another dire no-show from a number of Arsenal’s big name stars.”

Charlie Watts, Goal

“Arsenal have conceded 82 shots in three games this season against Watford, Southampton and Brighton. In the same games they had just 31 shots themselves. That is truly staggering, especially when you consider two of the games were at home. What an inexplicable mess.”

Piers Morgan, TV presenter

“Arsenal’s performance last night was so awful, I genuinely fear we may slide into a relegation battle. If we were played off the pitch like that by Brighton [who were excellent], I can’t even imagine what humiliation is coming when we play Man City next Sunday [15 December]. Pray for us.” 

Today’s back pages

Marco gets the ‘Silva bullet’ at Everton

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