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Freddie Ljungberg claims Gabriel Martinelli was the only Arsenal player who showed fight in Villarreal draw


Freddie Ljungberg praised Gabriel Martinelli for his efforts in Arsenal’s draw with Villarreal (BT Sport)

Freddie Ljungberg believes Gabriel Martinelli was the only Arsenal player who showed any urgency in their Europa League stalemate against Villarreal on Thursday evening.

Mikel Arteta’s side crashed out of Europe and blew the chance of making it to the final against Manchester United with a lifeless display at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners required a win after losing 2-1 in the first leg in Spain, but Arteta’s men could only muster a goalless draw against Unai Emery’s side.

Following the result, Martin Keown and Ljungberg both questioned Arsenal’s approach to the game, while Arsenal’s former interim coach feels that Martinelli is the only player who can emerge from the game with some credit.

‘I think the manager obviously comes under enormous pressure,’ Keown told BT Sport after Arsenal’s Europa League exit.

‘You start to look at the wisdom of a young manager coming in to take a job here, it’s a huge job, a massive job at this football club and I think his inexperience has cost him.

Arsenal crashed out of the Europa League after a stalemate at home to Villarreal (Reuters)

‘Of course, he’s still here as manager and we’ll have to wait to see what happens on that. It seemed to me though that this was the rescue package tonight and it didn’t arrive, the team didn’t turn up.

‘Whether it was the motivation, the tactics, he was outsmarted by the previous manager which is a bit of an embarrassment. Both games – the false nine and then today where we changed the midfield completely and we looked like it was something brand new to us – we didn’t look like we had the experience to adapt, to change, we looked lost.

‘They seemed prepared to just let the game flow away. It was really disappointing, there was hardly any reaction from the team. I think it does come from the manager, he gives the tactics from the start, that’s the base for the players to play from, and they looked lost.

‘Odegaard didn’t know when to press, when to sit back in midfield, you’ve got to go and press the ball, ask questions of your opponent, Arsenal didn’t do that.’

Ljungberg added: ‘You saw that in the first half and in the second half, the back line of Villarreal had the ball and no one was pressing. We’re playing at home and we have to win the game. I agree, you could see something was wrong.

‘I felt like they didn’t know what to do. In their aggression they were not quick going.

‘The only time I felt the pressing worked really well was when Martinelli came on. He had that intensity and a few times they had to kick the ball away because he pressed really well.

‘To be at home at Arsenal and you have to win the game, it felt a bit passive, I hope I’m not the only one to think so, but it felt a bit passive.’

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