Arsenal’s interim coach Freddie Ljungberg told his struggling players “This is not Arsenal” in a harsh halftime speech as they slumped to a 2-1 defeat to Brighton.
The Gunners have now gone nine matches without a win, their worst run in over 42 years, with Ljungberg unable to oversee an immediate upturn in fortunes following Unai Emery’s sacking last week.
“They look very short on confidence,” Ljungberg said.
“In the first half they were scared to get the ball and a bit scared to move, they were just standing still. That’s something we need to talk about.
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“They need to have a win, we need to dig out a win and get them some confidence. They can do it because they showed it in the beginning of the second half and they did it really well for 20 minutes. It’s hard to say that when you lose at home, but they were very good in that little spell.
“At half time we said ‘This is not Arsenal, we have to give it a crack.’
“That’s what I want to see from them.
“Of course it’s disappointing but we’ve got to keep on going.”
‘We need to keep plugging away’
“It’s never easy when you sack a manager and you’re low on confidence,” he added.
“We started really well at Norwich. We started the second half really well [against Brighton] and I was sure we were going to win the game and get going again.
“We get a sucker punch on a counter or as they play down one side. It’s hard to take but we keep plugging away.”
Arsenal struggled to get going as Brighton dominated a first half during which they took a deserved lead through Adam Webster.
The Gunners threw on Nicolas Pepe at halftime and did get a response. Alexandre Lacazette’s flicked header from Mesut Ozil’s corner flew in off the far post as Sead Kolasinac challenged Mat Ryan, before David Luiz had a strike ruled out for off-side by VAR.
However, Maupay’s late winner sealed Arsenal’s fate with Ljungberg bemoaning his side’s poor opening 45 minutes.
“We’re disappointed to lose at home,” he said. “The main thing is we didn’t show up in the first half.
“We were very passive and we had a chat at halftime, made a tactical change and all of a sudden we looked like a team. For 20 minutes or so we really pushed them, scored goals and thought we could win the game, but VAR was correct.
“That’s how we have to play the whole game. I said to the players that you can’t give away a whole half to any team in the Premier League. That’s what we need to learn from.”
‘Players feel the pressure’
The result leaves Arsenal 10th, 10 points adrift of the top four and Ljungberg believes the tension in the crowd at the Emirates Stadium is not helping the players.
“It’s obvious that nervousness from a crowd can affect footballers, it doesn’t matter what quality you have,” he said.
“They’re human beings like everyone else, they want to do well and they feel the pressure. That’s something we need to work on and I feel like if we just dig out a win, we can get there. They showed it in the second half.”
Ljungberg, who has been linked with the permanent managerial role, says he will continue to commit to the interim head coach position until the Arsenal board have made their decision on who should take up the reins.
“It’s up to the club and what they want to do,” he said. “There’s nothing I can get involved with. I said I love this football club and I’ll help them with whatever they need help with and it’s up to them to make a decision.
This article originally appeared on Sky Sports and is reproduced with permission.