Ljungberg tells Arsenal stars: ‘Be brave’
Goalie reveals how interim head coach’s team talk inspired Gunners' comeback
12 December, 2019 — By Steve Barnett
Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno
GUNNERS goalie Bernd Leno says interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg is reigniting “the real Arsenal” by encouraging the players to take to the pitch with “laughing faces”.
Leno revealed how the Swede has asked them to “be braver”, which led to the north Londoners ending their nine-match winless streak on Monday night with a 3-1 victory at West Ham.
But the newly rediscovered “good feeling” will be truly tested on Sunday afternoon, when Arsenal welcome champions Manchester City to the Emirates Stadium.
“From the first day, Freddie said he wanted to see laughing faces, to see a good atmosphere,” said Leno, who was voted the Gunners’ November Player of the Month.
“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.”
Quizzed on the club’s ongoing search for a successor for the sacked Unai Emery, Leno added: “I do not know what the club is deciding. 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.
“At half-time on Monday, Freddie was talking and analysing.
“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 in the second half.
“After the second and the third goals you could see how we can play with more confidence. This is the real Arsenal.”
The Gunners’ preparations for the clash against City have been hampered by injuries, with a number of key players “being assessed” ahead of the crunch Premier League showdown.
The casualty list includes defender Hector Bellerin, who pulled out of the West Ham game at the last minute with a tight hamstring, winger Nicolas Pepe, who was left out of the Europa League squad for the game away to Standard Liege because of a bruised knee, and full-back Kieran Tierney, who is “undergoing further assessment and investigations” after dislocating his right shoulder just 29 minutes into Monday night’s match.
Granit Xhaka is also a doubt after sustaining concussion at the London Stadium.
Meanwhile, Arsenal have been linked with a surprise move for Manchester United defender Chris Smalling when his loan spell at Roma ends in the summer.