Leno lauds Ljungberg for bringing back ‘real Arsenal’ in West Ham second half

Freddie Ljungberg may be taking charge of Arsenal on a game-by-game basis, but Bernd Leno insists the interim head coach is earning the praise of the players as the club continue their search for a full-time boss.

The 42-year-old replaced Unai Emery last month and oversaw his first victory at the helm as his side came from behind to win 3-1 at West Ham on Monday night.

It was a first win in 10 games for the beleaguered Gunners as Gabriel Martinelli, Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all struck in quick succession after Angelo Ogbonna’s deflected effort had given the hosts the lead.

Nicolas Pepe (left) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (right) were on the scoresheet for Arsenal
Nicolas Pepe (left) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (right) were on the scoresheet for Arsenal (Adam Davy/PA)

Arsenal kicked off at the London Stadium in the bottom half of the Premier League table and just four points clear of the relegation zone but will now be looking to build on their first win since October.

Speaking after the game, Ljungberg said he was still in the dark as to how long he would be filling in, with Leno more than happy to continue working under the Swede in the meantime.

“I do not know what the club is deciding,” said the goalkeeper.

“We only have to focus on now. Freddie is doing a very good job. The team know about his quality and the way they want to play.

“We want to play with possession, keep the ball and also press very high, and also with transitions. It is not our decision, it is a decision of the club.

“From the first day he said he wanted to see laughing faces, to see a good atmosphere. We had a bad time, we are all human and it is not easy. It was not like we did not try, but it just did not work.”

The poor run of results which cost Emery his job and bled over into the start of Ljungberg’s temporary tenure appeared set to continue as Arsenal were jeered off by the their own fans at half-time in east London.

They failed to register a shot on target until Martinelli’s first Premier League goal drew them level on the hour mark, with Leno revealing Ljungberg’s half-time team talk did enough to rouse the players from their slumber.

“You could feel in the first half we had no confidence,” the German added.

Bernd Leno said Arsenal were short on confidence in the first half
Bernd Leno said Arsenal were short on confidence in the first half (Nigel French/PA)

“In the half-time we talked to each other and said we have to change something. The performance in the second half was impressive, we controlled the game, scored some nice goals, took our chances and it was well deserved.

“This result must give us confidence for the next weeks. Freddie was talking and analysing (at half-time). He showed us some situations that we needed to be braver. We did this. It is a good feeling, we all missed the feeling.

“He was calm but in a very straight way. It was not like everyone was not trying, but you could feel that we did not play in a free way and he made us more free to play.

“You could see this more in the second half. After the second and the third goal you could see how we can play with more confidence. This is the real Arsenal.”

The result piled pressure on West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini
The result piled pressure on West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini (Adam Davy/PA)

While Arsenal will be hoping that a corner has been turned, West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini remains under scrutiny following another defeat.

Goalkeeper David Martin has called on the players to “dig in” moving forward as they prepare to travel to fellow strugglers Southampton at the weekend.

“It was not good enough and we’ve got to show more character than that,” he said.

“I was brought up on character and the West Ham way, and you’ve got to dig in sometimes. It’s not all going to be pretty football and when the chances come along, hopefully we’ll take them – it takes grit and determination to play for this club.”

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