Arsenal 2-1 Sheffield United: Premier League – 04/10/2020

While most Arsenal fan’s attentions is focused on the fast-approaching transfer deadline, for Mikel Arteta, the focus remained on Sunday afternoon’s match against Sheffield United.

Moving on from Thursday night’s match against Liverpool, Mikel Arteta made four changes to the side from their previous Premier League match (also agaisnt Liverpool), with Granit Xhaka dropped to the bench, alongside Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Rob Holding and Alexandre Lacazette, with Bukyao Saka, Dani Ceballos, Gabriel Magalhães and Eddie Nketiah stepping into the breach.

Arsenal started off fairly positive with good areas of possession and creating half-chances, with Eddie Nketiah coming closest, though the England striker was unable to get his shot off.

Controversy soon followed when David Luiz was penalised for pulling the shirt of Oliver Burke. Though the Sheffield United players protested against the Brazilian’s apparent man-handling of Scottish forward’s shirt, referee Lee Mason seemed unconvinced, as did the VAR team at Stockley Park.

Bukayo Saka caps off a spectacular week for the 19-year-old.

The rest of the half passed without major incident, though both teams continued to apply pressure to the other’s defences, it was still Arsenal who came closest, after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s long-range effort was impressively kept out by Aaron Ramsdale.

The second-half was a throughly more exciting affair. Sensing a lack of tooth in the attack, Chris Wilder introduced Oli McBurnie and Mikel Arteta introduced Nicolas Pépé, the effects were near instantaneous.

Barely three minutes after Pépé’s introduction, Arsenal began to overload the right-hand side, with Willian and Pépé combing well, releasing Elneny, who played the ball to Aubameyang, who subsequently teeded up Héctor Bellerín, whose wonderfully chipped ball found the head of Bukayo Saka to give Arsenal the lead, capping off a spectacular week for the 19-year-old, who also recieved his first England call-up as well.

However, the best was still to come, with Bellerín laying off the ball for Pépé to sprint forward. The Ivorian sprinted with the ferocity of a man desperate to prove himself to the fans and his manager; he broke into the penalty area before slotting his effort in-off-the-post into the far corner to double the home team’s advantage.

From there, Arsenal tried to manage the game out, but a spectacular effort from David McGoldrick gave Sheffield United a route back into the game. From there, Arsenal needed to manage the defensive element of the game. Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ introduction seemed to sure things up down the left-hand side, but the England international was almost culpable for giving Sheffield an equaliser, when his casual control of a cross almost led to a goal, but for Burke’s effort to roll out for a corner.

Nicolas Pépé celebrates opening his account for the season with his spectacular effort.

As the final whistle blew, the relief around the Emirates was palpable even without the added atmosphere of the fans; Mikel Arteta and his coaching staff celebrated another three points as they head into the international break with a 75% win rate in the Premier League, eight goals scored and five goals conceded.

As seems to have been the case over the past few weeks, Arsenal suffered from a distinct lack of creativity in their play, especially in the first-half. Though Nicolas Pépé’s introduction in the second-half certainly lightened the load, it has become increasingly apparent heading into every game that Arsenal’s attacking trio will likely be feeding off scraps.

Pépé’s performance was more in-line with what Arsenal fans have been asking for ever since he joined Arsenal last summer. Though Pépé is not responsible for the transfer fee paid for him (a club record £72m), his performances have flattered to deceive since joining and it has not escaped anyone’s attention that Willian has taken Pépé’s place in the starting eleven. His goal was the sort of thing Arsenal signed him for, to see him attack the opposition with ferocity and to be selfish in his quest for goals, something he showed in abundance.

As Arsenal enter the final few hours of the transfer window, with new signings looking less and less likely, it remains to be seen how Mikel Arteta will be managing the creativity problem in the team.

Arsenal team:
1.) Bernd Leno
2.) Héctor Bellerín
23.) David Luiz
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
3.) Kieran Tierney
25.) Mohamed Elneny
8.) Dani Ceballos (Xhaka 81′)
7.) Bukayo Saka (Maitland-Niles 87′)
12.) Willian
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c)
30.) Eddie Nketiah (Pépé 58′)

Arsenal subs:
13.) Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson
16.) Rob Holding
15.) Ainsley Maitland-Niles
34.) Granit Xhaka
28.) Joe Willock
19.) Nicolas Pépé
9.) Alexandre Lacazette

Sheffield United team:
1.) Aaron Ramsdale
6.) Chris Basham (Sharp 76′)
12.) John Egan
19.) Jack Robinson
2.) George Baldock
7.) John Lundstram
8.) Sander Berge
23.) Ben Osborn (Fleck 63′)
3.) Enda Stevens
14.) Oliver Burke (McBurnie 56′)
17.) David McGoldrick

Sheffield United subs:
18.) West Foderingham
4.) John Fleck
22.) Ethan Ampadu
13.) Max Lowe
16.) Oliver Norwood
10.) Billy Sharp
9.) Oli McBurnie

Leave a Reply