Arsenal came from behind to end their nine-match winless streak as Freddie Ljungberg enjoyed his first victory as interim manager at the expense of his former club West Ham.
Eighteen-year-old Gabriel Martinelli marked his full Premier League debut by side-footing an equaliser which cancelled out Angelo Ogbonna’s deflected first-half opener at London Stadium.
Within nine minutes, Nicolas Pepe had curled a magnificent second into the top corner and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fired in a third.
The salvo turned the game on its head and piled the pressure on West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini, whose side have taken four points from their past nine league games and conceded three times in three successive home games.
The Hammers remain a point above the relegation zone in 16th and face a trip to third-bottom Southampton on Saturday. Arsenal move up two places to ninth.
Arsenal recover from dismal start
Arsenal’s victory was all the more remarkable because until Martinelli added to the seven goals he has scored in cup competitions this season, the visitors had been utterly woeful.
Club officials had spoken before kick-off about the improved atmosphere triggered by Ljungberg’s appointment as Unai Emery’s replacement but it appeared this game would end in frustration, just as the previous two had done under the Swede.
The visitors were bereft of confidence and mild boos from the travelling support accompanied the end of a first half in which their side failed to have a shot on target and went behind when Ogbonna’s header bounced in off Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
True, they did not have much luck. Hector Bellerin was injured in the warm-up and when Kieran Tierney was helped off in obvious pain with a shoulder injury sustained in a seemingly innocuous tangle with Michail Antonio, Ljungberg had lost both his first-choice full-backs in the space of half an hour.
Nevertheless, it was pitiful stuff and when Aubameyang surged down the right wing and sent over a cross that flew over everyone and straight out for a throw-in on the other side of the pitch, it was symptomatic of a club apparently heading nowhere fast.
‘Nerveless’ Martinelli rewards Ljungberg’s faith
It was 1977 when Arsenal last went 10 matches without a win. With an away Europa League game against Standard Liege followed by a home encounter with Manchester City to come, at the interval it was not beyond the realms of possibility that the 12-game barren sequence from 1974 was going to be threatened.
With Alexandre Lacazette and David Luiz on the bench, it was two of Arsenal’s most inexperienced players who sparked the change in fortune.
Ljungberg had obviously seen enough of Martinelli in two substitute appearances to trust the Brazilian with his first league start. The reward was a nerveless finish when his side needed it most. Sead Kolasinac provided the cross but there was still a lot to do for the Brazilian, who steered a first-time effort into the corner.
Emery paid a club record £72m for Pepe in August. With one league goal all season, the Frenchman has not really lived up to his billing but his goal here, a curling shot into the right-hand corner of David Martin’s net, was perfect in its execution.
Aubameyang made certain of a win few would have anticipated 10 minutes earlier when his clinical finish took his tally for the season to 13. It disguised the fact he had been a virtual spectator for the first hour.
At the final whistle, Ljungberg ran to applaud the visiting fans, knowing he had given his own chances of replacing Emery a significant boost.
What now for the unhappy Hammers?
When they beat Chelsea 1-0 nine days ago to end their own winless sequence, it appeared West Ham were on an upward curve.
The combination of boos and thousands of empty seats that accompanied the final whistle on Monday underlined the truth of the matter.
West Ham are perilously close to dropping into the relegation zone, something the club cannot countenance after moving to the 60,000-capacity London Stadium.
Even if Pellegrini survives this defeat, if West Ham lose again at Southampton on Saturday the calls for his dismissal will become piercingly loud.
This was the third home game running in which they had conceded three goals.
The Hammers were not particularly convincing when they were in front. Once they lost the advantage, the lack of confidence so clear in Arsenal’s play transferred to theirs.
Record signing Sebastien Haller was left on the bench and even when he was introduced 20 minutes from time, he made no noticeable impact.
Man of the match: Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal)
‘Like a Duracell battery’ – what they said
Arsenal interim boss Freddie Ljungberg told BBC Sport: “The players have belief and tried to move the ball with more tempo. West Ham got tired.
“The players ran their socks off and fought. I believe in them. When I could see them put their shift in, I could see the quality. I thought ‘it is here for the taking’.
“Martinelli did amazingly. He is like a Duracell battery, he keeps going. Laca [Alexandre Lacazette] is a tremendous player but I had to make a tough decision.”
West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini told BBC Sport: “For 60 minutes there was just one team on the pitch. But football can be like this.
“We made mistakes in moments of defending. The problem was a lack of patience and quality to decide the game with a second goal and we made important mistakes in defence.
“The pressure for me is exactly the same if we win or lose. When you don’t have results things are more difficult. If I had not seen the team play the way they did in the first 65 minutes, I might have doubts [about his ability to turn things around].
“After Southampton at the weekend we have a break. We must try to recover as quickly as we can and we must try to win those three points.”
Rare Arsenal recovery away from home – the stats
- West Ham have lost three in a row at home in the Premier League for the first time since August 2015.
- Arsenal came from a half-time losing position to win a Premier League away game for the first time since October 2011 (5-3 v Chelsea).
- Gabriel Martinelli is Arsenal’s fourth-youngest scorer in the Premier League (18 years 174 days), after Cesc Fabregas, Serge Gnabry and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
- Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been involved in 12 goals in his past 11 Premier League London derbies (nine goals, three assists).
- Since his Premier League debut in February 2018, Aubameyang has scored 43 goals in the competition, a joint-high along with Jamie Vardy.
Arsenal conclude their Europa League group phase campaign at Standard Liege on Thursday (17:55 GMT), still needing a draw to be sure of qualification before entertaining Manchester City at Emirates Stadium in the Premier League on Sunday (16:30). West Ham visit Southampton on Saturday (17:30).
Freddie Ljungberg is not the right man to manage Arsenal on a long-term basis, said former Blackburn striker Chris Sutton.
Ex-Gunners midfielder Ljungberg, 42, is in interim charge of the club after they sacked Unai Emery last month.
“Freddie said he was 100% sure they would get into the top four but based on what? It’s fantasy,” said Sutton on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Monday Night Club.
“They need to get someone in place that they are going to get a reaction from.”
Ljungberg, who played for Arsenal between 1998 and 2007, had been Emery’s assistant after working with their under-23 side but has no previous managerial experience.
In his only game in charge so far, the Gunners twice fell behind to a Norwich City side in the bottom three before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang twice equalised in a 2-2 draw.
That result left Arsenal eighth in the Premier League, 21 points behind leaders Liverpool and seven behind fourth-placed Chelsea.
“Did you expect them to be much different?” added Sutton, a Premier League title winner with Blackburn in 1994-95. “It has been the same for the last decade and it’s still the same problem.
“They need to change the model, the recruitment. Over the summer they brought in [winger] Nicolas Pepe [for £72m] but the issues were at the back.”
Former Aston Villa and Chelsea midfielder Andy Townsend agreed with Sutton and said: “I don’t think it’s the right time for Freddie to take over, not the right time for someone who is inexperienced at this level.
“Arsenal need someone to come in and teach them about defending.
“Calum Chambers has been around long enough to see if there’s been an improvement but there hasn’t been. I don’t think he’s good enough to be an Arsenal regular.
“Sokratis is nowhere near good enough. I don’t think he would get into any Premier League side.”
‘If you rely on Sokratis you will be changing manager every six months’
Emery’s sacking by Arsenal came 10 days after Tottenham dismissed Mauricio Pochettino, although Spurs acted decisively by bringing in Jose Mourinho the next day.
“At Tottenham they sacked the manager, it was a bit harsh but the time had come, and they had a manager six hours later, that’s how Arsenal should’ve done it,” said former Liverpool midfielder Charlie Adam.
“Whoever comes in, it’s a short-term fix and in January he will need two centre-halves but there’s no money.”
Townsend added: “Jose Mourinho, when he looked at the Spurs team and the players he was working with, he has Son Heung-min, Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Lucas Moura and thought ‘we have half a chance’.
“With Arsenal you will think ‘I can win games with these players but I’ve got to sort out a team’. You will never stop Sokratis making mistakes. If you rely on him you will be changing manager every six months.”
Rodgers the ‘perfect fit’ for Arsenal – Adam
On Monday, Brendan Rodgers, manager of second-placed Leicester, dismissed speculation linking him with the Arsenal job, although on Sunday he had revealed there was a release clause in his Foxes contract.
“If Arsenal make the phone call and offer whatever that buy-out clause is, £15-£20m, that’s nothing to Arsenal. That sort of money they should find in a heartbeat,” added Townsend.
“They would spend it on a player and throw it away in 10 games. They spent £72m on Pepe and he does not get a game. To spend £25m on Brendan Rodgers, if he is the one they want then why wait?
“We’ve all enjoyed the Leicester story. It has been one of incredible highs and they are a great watch but they’re not on the same level globally as Arsenal are – to be back at Arsenal would be him back up among the elite.”
Adam described Rodgers as “the perfect fit” for Arsenal but doubted whether it would be the best decision from the former Liverpool and Celtic boss to leave Leicester for Arsenal.
“I don’t think it would be a good move for Rodgers,” said Adam. “At Leicester you have a new £100m training ground, four or five players at the top of their game – players like Youri Tielemans, Jamie Vardy, James Maddison.
“I would want my manager to say ‘I’m not interested in any other job’. If you don’t want to get it out there you don’t admit you have a buy-out clause. I think he wants the job.”
What about the other contenders?
Townsend believes Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo, who won the Championship in 2017-18 and guided them to seventh in the Premier League last season, is the right man at Emirates Stadium.
“When I see the job he’s done at Wolves, getting them promoted, making them a seriously good team to watch, Nuno would be great,” said Townsend.
“He looks like a coach who wants to get into a player’s head and turn them around and some of the Arsenal players need that.”
Townsend also mentioned former Liverpool, Chelsea and Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez as another strong contender, but did not think Pochettino would move and join Tottenham’s fiercest rivals after more than five years in charge of Spurs.
“I wonder what the Arsenal fans would think of Benitez,” added Townsend. “He has been successful and managed at big clubs and has a history of trying to organise a team – and Arsenal need that.
“It’s too early for Mauricio Pochettino, he needs a breather instead of bouncing out of one job and into another.
“He was gone at the end. Have Christmas off at home and enjoy time with his family and friends. Pochettino can get a better job than Arsenal.”
Unai Emery has been offered public backing by the Arsenal hierarchy, but warned results must improve.
Emery’s position is under scrutiny after a run of just two wins from their last 10 Premier League games.
However, Arsenal head of football Raul Sanllehi and managing director Vinai Venkatesham say they have no immediate plans to make a change of manager.
“We firmly believe Unai is the right man for the job,” they told Arsenal staff at a meeting.
“We are as disappointed as everyone else with both our results and performances at this stage of the season.
“We share the frustration with our fans, Unai, players and all our staff as they are not at the level we want or expect. Things need to improve to meet our objectives for the season.
“We are all working intensively behind the scenes to turn things around and are confident we will.
“We never take our fantastic support for granted. We hope we can all stick together and get behind the team in this challenging period, as together we are stronger.”
Xhaka ‘hurt’ by hostile criticism
Meanwhile, Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka says he has been hurt by the “extreme hostility” directed towards him from the supporters, but has promised to prove his worth.
The Switzerland midfielder has not played for the club since.
“It was very hurtful and frustrating,” Xhaka told Swiss newspaper Blick.
“I can’t understand a reaction like that even now, especially the vehemence of it and the extreme hostility directed against me.”
Xhaka was booed as he walked off the pitch as he was substituted against Palace, prompting him to cup his ear, take his shirt off and head straight down the tunnel to the dressing room.
“When my shirt number lit up on the fourth official’s panel and our own fans broke into gleeful jubilation, that hit me very hard and really upset me,” he added.
“Insulting and swearing at your own captain will cause upset and a bad atmosphere for the team you are actually supposed to be supporting; that makes no sense to me and weakens the team’s spirit.”
Arsenal manager Emery said last week that he was unsure whether the midfielder would play for the club again, adding that “he was not ready” to return for Saturday’s match at Leicester, which the Gunners lost 2-0.
Xhaka, though, says he is fully committed to the club and is ready to move on from the incident.
“I’ve been 100% behind the club and my role as a player since I came here,” he said.
“I’m proud to be playing for this big club. I’ll continue to stay positive, give my all to an even greater extent and prove that I’m an important part of this great team.
“Last week in particular was a very special, emotional experience for me but I’m doing very well again, I’ve trained well this week and am looking forward to my next assignments.”
Sheffield United claimed a stunning win over Arsenal to move into the top half of the Premier League.
Lys Mousset marked his first start for the Blades with the decisive goal in the first half, turning in Jack O’Connell’s knockdown from close range.
Arsenal’s £72m signing Nicolas Pepe had earlier skewed a golden chance wide from six yards.
Granit Xhaka forced Dean Henderson into an excellent save but the Blades closed the game out superbly for a famous win.
The victory was Sheffield United’s biggest result since their return to the Premier League as they moved up to ninth, four points clear of the relegation zone.
Defeat for Arsenal, meanwhile, means they missed the chance to move back into the top four. They are fifth, two points behind Chelsea in fourth.
More to follow.
Goals from academy gradates Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka helped Arsenal overcome a difficult test against Eintracht Frankfurt and begin their Europa League campaign with a victory.
Willock put the Gunners in front with a deflected shot in the first half before Saka smashed in his first senior goal for the club in the 85th minute.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang added a third two minutes later as Arsenal ended their three-game winless run.
The Gunners had created further chances but also relied on goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez to come to the aid of their fragile defence.
The Argentine produced excellent low saves to deny Filip Kostic and Andre Silva in the first half.
The second period was frantic in front of a vociferous home crowd with Arsenal’s late goals only coming after Dominik Kohr was shown a second yellow card for a cynical foul.
The Gunners, beaten finalists in last year’s Europa League, are top of the early Group F table on goal difference after Standard Liege beat Vitoria in the night’s other game.
Youngsters star in attack
Manager Unai Emery opted for a mix of youth and experience for the game in Germany, despite it arguably being Arsenal’s toughest test in Group F, and it was their young players who stood out.
Eighteen-year-old Saka, playing for the first team for the first time this season and fifth time in total, was excellent on the left flank, scoring once and setting up the other two goals.
He created Willock’s goal by beating his marker with fine skill in midfield and was the main threat for the Gunners in the first half.
The only criticism was he spurned a number of chances to increase Arsenal’s lead but he silenced those doubts with an emphatic finish from the edge of the area late on.
Willock played as the Gunners most advanced central midfielder and offered a goal threat but also linked play well, notably with a fine driving run in the second half which ended with Martin Hinteregger excellently blocking an Aubameyang shot.
The scoreline flattered Arsenal in the end but the game will be most memorable for the performance of their youngsters.
Defensive issues remain
The Gunners came into the game on the back of their disappointing 2-2 draw against Watford, after which their defensive display was heavily criticised as they spurned a two-goal lead.
Although Arsenal kept a second clean sheet of the season, they still looked uncertain at the back and allowed Eintracht 24 shots on goal – seven fewer than the Hornets’ 31 on Sunday.
Arsenal’s deeper midfielders Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira failed to control proceedings with the second half end-to-end until Kohr was dismissed.
Eintracht, who reached the semi-finals of the Europa League last season before losing on penalties to Chelsea, lost strikers Sebastien Haller and Luka Jovic to West Ham and Real Madrid respectively in the summer and had either been in their line-up on Thursday, Arsenal’s slack defence may have been punished.
Kostic caused right-back Calum Chambers significant problems but was wasteful, as was AC Milan loanee Silva, who shot well wide in the second half when given another good opportunity.
That said, Martinez, brought in for first-choice goalkeeper Bernd Leno, impressed with key saves in the first half and assured handling when called upon.
Man of the match – Bukayo Saka
Aubameyang’s goal-scoring run – the best stats
- Arsenal have only lost one of their 13 group stage games in the Europa League (W10 D2), while this was their sixth consecutive clean sheet in the group stage of the competition.
- Arsenal picked up their first European away win against German opposition since November 2013 (1-0 v Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League), having failed to win on any of their previous five trips (D1 L4).
- Eintracht Frankfurt suffered their heaviest home defeat across European competitions – in what was their 74th such game on home soil.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has netted seven goals in his last seven Europa League appearances for Arsenal, with four of those coming away from home.
- Bukayo Saka is the youngest player to score for Arsenal in the Europa League/Champions League since October 2008, when Aaron Ramsey (17y 300d) netted against Fenerbahce.
Arsenal came from two goals down to claim a point from a full-blooded north London derby with Tottenham at Emirates Stadium.
Christian Eriksen put the visitors ahead early on after Bernd Leno spilled Erik Lamela’s shot at the Danish international’s feet.
Spurs were cruising when Harry Kane doubled their lead from the penalty spot after Granit Xhaka’s woefully misjudged challenge on Son Heung-min, but Alexandre Lacazette got on the end of Nicolas Pepe’s pass to give Arsenal hope in first-half stoppage time.
And Maurcio Pochettino’s side were made to pay for a conservative approach after the break as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang turned a Matteo Guendouzi cross beyond Hugo Lloris to secure a point for the Gunners.
More to follow.