Arsenal FC defeated West Ham on Monday to record their first win since late October thanks in large part to former Lille OSC forward Nicolas Pépé.
The Ivorian scored a brilliant goal and recorded an assist to lead the Gunners past the Hammers at the London Stadium. After the match, interim manager Freddie Ljungberg spoke about Arsenal’s record signing, who has struggled since arriving from Lille last summer for €80 million and at the same time, criticized Ligue 1.
“People always ask me about Nico and I try to explain,” Ljungberg said as reported by NBC Sports. “He comes from the French league, he comes to the Premier League—in my opinion, the best league in the world—and it’s a lot faster and a lot harder. He needs to adapt.”
It’s important to note that the way-over-his-head and soon-to-be-demoted substitute manager has never played or managed in Ligue 1. It’s also been my experience that people who make broad statements like this about Ligue 1 are usually the ones who don’t even watch the league consistently enough to speak on the matter intelligently.
While no one will say Ligue 1 is on the same level as the Premier League, at least not financially, I would argue the French league is a lot more physical and defense is actually a part of the game in France.
Ljungberg is also forgetting the number of Ligue 1 players who made the move to England and immediately performed at a high level.
The Swede only needs to look at his own squad for an example. After making the move from Olympique Lyonnais to Arsenal for the 2017-18 season, Alexandre Lacazette bagged 17 goals and recorded 5 assists in 39 total appearances in his first year in North London. His 14 goals in the Premier League was the eighth highest in the entire league that season and the most at Arsenal.
Also, who could forget Mattéo Guendouzi’s inaugural season at Arsenal in 2018-19? The former FC Lorient midfielder made 48 appearances in all competitions and at 20-years-old, he’s one of the most promising players at the Emirates.
If I could have a conversation with Ljungberg, I would tell him to not make excuses for a player who is paid very well to play football. Whether he was in France, Italy, Spain, or Germany, he’s a talented player and if he’s off to a slow start in England, it’s because of his own lack of concentration and poor managing.
Speaking of poor managing, Tutto Mercato Web is reporting that Arsenal is close to moving on from Ljungberg and replace him with…wait for it…Paulo Sousa who is currently the manager of Ligue 1’s FC Girondins de Bordeaux. Oh, the irony.
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