Arsenal ground out a solid victory against a spirited Sheffield United side, another three points making it three wins from four in the Premier League.
It was a real tough cookie to crumble though, as the Blades were back to their robust best. Chris Wilder had his side set up with a solid bank of five and dug in understandably - but credit to our side to find the nous to win.
Arteta brought in Elneny in place of Granit Xhaka and Nketiah kept his place up top in the place of top scorer Alexandre Lacazette – and Gabriel Magalhaes came back in the place of Rob Holding. The changes were understandable too – this was the third game we had played in the space of a week.
The first half was cagey to say the least but the major flashpoint came in just the second minute. David Luiz got caught out and had a small tug on the shirt with Leno coming out of his box to clear. Could it have been given as a red? It has been before -but it would’ve been harsh.
There were a few sniffs of action for the Gunners, despite playing just a tad too slow. Aubameyang had probably our best chance, but his long range effort was tipped over by Ramsdale – and that ws pretty much the best of our opportunities. It wasn’t that we were playing badly – we just didn’t have the tempo right. We were defending well though, the Blades were making no inroads at all.
The only other flashpoint of the half was when Sander Berge went sliding into Aubameyang and left his studs showing. He actually jumped into the tackle too – and every Gunner’s hearts were in our mouths as Auba stayed down. Luckily for us, he got back up and carried on but how Berge wasn’t sent off is a mystery.
The second half began with Arsenal picking things up, pace wise. We were passing the ball a lot faster and United weren’t covering all the spaces effectively. Ceballos played a clever pass into the box but Auba sliding in didn’t quite manage to reach it. Arteta made his first change when Pepe came on in the 57th minute for the ineffective Nketiah – and minutes later, we had got the lead.
Decent interchanges in and around the box led to Bellerin being set free to send a looping cross over the six yard area for a lurking Saka at the back post to plant a perfect header past Ramsdale. What a week for the youngster.
Three minutes later, we doubled the lead. Arsenal were passing the ball well and after a series of passes, Pepe was set free down the right. He outpaced his nearest marker and cut in. When he reached the box, a couple of steps inside and he placed a firm and precise effort into the far bottom corner.
It was exactly what Arsenal and Pepe needed – and we were walking the game. The game’s pace petered out as we constricted play and were content to seeing the match out – but with seven minutes left, the Blades were back in it. There was little we could do about it either, McGoldrick curling an auba-esque finish outside of the box past a sprawling Leno.
The remaining minutes saw a little more pressure on our box but we held them at bay to collect the points.
We showed teeth once again, but what can we take from this match?
The Brazilian was resilient and seemed to communicate well with his teammates. He was especially strong in the air, but nothing got past him on the deck.This is a strong beginning for the young defender.
Laca should have started
The Frenchman was out of the side for this match despite being our top scorer. While Nketiah no doubt needs to start games and had played well so far, he made precious few inroads here. With Laca able to hold up lay and bring others into the game, that would’ve helped break the bank of 5 that the Blades were employing.
Pepe on the comeback
It has been a slow start to the season for the Ivorian, but this goal after coming on was exactly what he needed. Arteta is slowly giving Pepe more minutes, and his upturn in form will only help us create more and give Arteta more choices.
The international break is upon us now, which means the next game we have is in nearly two weeks, against Leicester City.
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