New manager, same old Arsenal held at Norwich
Caretaker manager Freddie Ljungberg could not end Arsenal’s long wait for a win as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s double only salvaged a 2-2 draw at struggling Norwich on Sunday.
The Canaries twice led through Teemu Pukki and Todd Cantwell only for Aubameyang to level, first from the penalty spot and then with a clinical finish after the break.
But Arsenal also had goalkeeper Bernd Leno to thank for coming away with a point as the German saved brilliantly from Kenny McLean, Pukki and Emiliano Buendia.
Unai Emery was sacked as Arsenal manager after seven games without a win in all competitions that had seen the Gunners fall well off the pace in the race for a top-four finish.
Ljungberg remains a fans’ favourite from his title-winning days as an Arsenal player, but he suffered the same problems as his predecessor as the visitors’ firepower up front was needed to cover up their defensive problems.
Granit Xhaka returned to the Arsenal side for the first time in the Premier League since an explosive clash with the club’s fans as he was substituted against Crystal Palace last month that cost him the captaincy among four changes from Emery’s last starting line-up in the league.
Shkodran Mustafi was surprisingly recalled for his first outing in the Premier League this season, but it did not take Ljungberg long to realise the German is not his answer to Arsenal’s problems a center-back.
Ljungberg’s side had made a bright start but fell behind to Norwich’s first dangerous attack when McLean’s pass played in Pukki, who twisted and turned David Luiz before seeing his shot deflect in off Mustafi for his first goal in nine games.
However, Norwich have also made a habit of giving themselves a mountain to climb this season with defensive errors and gifted Arsenal a route back into the game when captain Cristoph Zimmerman handled a free-kick inside his own box.
Aubameyang saw his first spot-kick saved by Tim Krul but was given a second chance after a VAR review for encroaching by the Norwich players and fired home the retaken penalty.
Just as Arsenal was beginning to get on top, they were again cut open with ease as Onel Hernandez’s cut-back was passed into the far corner by Cantwell to give Norwich a half-time lead.
Aubameyang has now scored half of his side’s 20 Premier League goals this season as the Gunners’ new captain led by example to smash home at the back post from a corner just before the hour mark.
But it was Norwich who will feel they should have taken all three points as three big chances went begging for just their fourth win of the season.
McLean’s shot was turned onto the post by Leno, Cantwell’s strike from the edge of the area flew just wide and Pukki was denied by a fine Leno save in quick succession.
Leno had one more big stop to make from Buendia in stoppage time, but a point still leaves Arsenal seven points adrift of the top four in the eighth.
Norwich remains in the bottom three, but an inch to within three points of safety.