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'Arsenal have their lost reputation as hard to beat' - Keown eager to see 'creative' streak return at Emirates

8:45 AM GMT 07/12/2019
Freddie Ljungberg Arsenal 2019-20
A Gunners legend feels his old club are in 'relegation form' at the moment, with a previously well-established identity now non-existent on the pitch

Arsenal's long-held reputation as team that's difficult to beat is now gone, according to Martin Keown, who feels the current crop have lost all sense of direction.

The Gunners have endured a nightmare start to the season, slipping to tenth in the Premier League after 15 fixtures.

Unai Emery was relieved of his managerial duties on November 29, after overseeing a seven-match winless run across all competitions, with his assistant Freddie Ljungberg asked to succeed the Spaniard on an interim basis.

Ljungberg has so far been unable to steady the ship, with Arsenal held to a 2-2 draw at Norwich on December 1 before suffering a shock home defeat against Brighton four days later.

The north Londoners are now 10 points outside the Champions League places, with a short trip to West Ham up next on Monday night.

Ahead of that clash, Keown has voiced fresh concerns over Arsenal's loss of form, insisting that their good name and standing in English football has been tarnished in recent years.

“We worked for years to build this reputation of Arsenal being difficult to beat, now that’s gone," the ex-Gunners defender told talkSPORT. "It’s ebbed away from the club and it’s got to return very quickly

“For me, at the moment, this is relegation form. Now, I don’t believe they will be relegated, but they are just five points from the bottom three!

“We’ve got West Ham away at the weekend, and then it’s Manchester City, Everton, Bournemouth, Chelsea and Manchester United. These are very, very difficult games and they’ve got to go to work.

“Over a 22-year period we moved away from the ‘difficult Arsenal, hard to beat, 1-0 to the Arsenal’ and turned into a very creative team – we’ve got neither now.

“We haven’t got the original difficult to beat or the expressive, creative, artistic Arsenal. We’ve got to get one or the other back.

“Freddie has tried to be creative, but we’re not staying in games long enough to be able to play that way.”

Keown went on to highlight Arsenal's defensive fragility, recalling how he used to work alongside Gilberto Silva in the 2003-2004 'invincibles' squad.

“Gilberto Silva met me the other day and he said, ‘I still go to bed at night hearing your voice ringing in my ears, because you kept saying, sit here! Sit here!’" he added.

“I had to organise that not just for myself but for the team - you have to protect the team.

“There is no defensive compass whatsoever in this side and their defence is getting no protection whatsoever from the midfield.

“They’re either all the way back sitting in close to the defence or they’re all the way up and the opposition is in behind you.

“I never see an argument with the midfielders and defenders saying, ‘where are you’, ‘push up behind me’, or vice versa.”

After facing off against the Hammers next week, Arsenal will prepare for a final Europa League group stage fixture away at Standard Liege on December 12.