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 to leveling only for Aubameyang by Teemu Pukki and Todd Cantwell, first from the penalty spot and then after the break with a clinical end. But Arsenal also had to thank goalkeeper Bernd Leno for coming up with a point as the German saved Kenny McLean, Pukki and Emiliano Buendia brilliantly. 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, Unai Emery was sacked as Arsenal manager.
From his title-winning days as an Arsenal player, Ljungberg remains a favorite for supporters, but he suffered the same problems as his predecessor as the firepower of the visitors was needed up front to cover up their defensive issues. For the first time in the Premier League, Granit Xhaka returned to the Arsenal side since an explosive clash with the club’s fans as he was replaced last month by Crystal Palace, which cost him the captaincy of four changes from Emery’s last league starting line-up.
Shkodran Mustafi was surprisingly remembered for his first Premier League outing this season, but it didn’t take long for Ljungberg to realize that the German wasn’t his central-back response to Arsenal’s problems. Ljungberg’s side had made a good start, but fell back to Norwich’s first dangerous attack when McLean’s pass played in Pukki, twisting and turning David Luiz before seeing his shot rebound off Mustafi for his first goal in nine matches.
However, Norwich also made a habit of climbing a mountain with defensive errors this season and gifted Arsenal with 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 the Norwich players gave him a second chance after a VAR review and fired the retaken penalty home.
Just as Arsenal began to get on top, they were cut open again with ease as Cantwell passed the cut-back of Onel Hernandez to hand Norwich a half-time lead in the far corner. Aubameyang has now scored half of the 20 Premier League goals for his side this season as the new captain of the Gunners led by example to smash home from a corner just before the hour mark at the back post.
But it was Norwich who will believe they should have taken all three points as only their fourth win of the season went to beg three big chances. Leno turned the shot of McLean onto the post, Cantwell’s strike from the edge of the area went just wide, and a fine Leno save denied Pukki in rapid succession. EOLBREAK EOLBREAK Leno had another big stop in stop time to make from Buendia, but a point still leaves Arsenal’s seven-point adrift from the top four in eighth. Norwich remains in the bottom three, but within three safety points.