Arsenal Face Acid Test At Bramall Lane

Monday evening trip to Sheffield will tell us plenty about resolve of Unai Emery’s players

Responsive image

Will it be gloves off tonight for Laca?

The normal five talking points ahead this evening’s visit to Sheffield United in the Premier League…

It’s been a while
Even though Sheffield United have only enjoyed a solitary season in the Premier League (aside from the current one) since being relegation in 25 years ago in 1994, there was a period when it felt like Arsenal always seemed to be playing them. Between January 1996 and September 2008, the teams met ten times, only two of those matches being league fixtures. And I’m only including the infamous 1999 FA Cup match re-staged due to a disputed ‘unfair play goal’ once. Four of the ten matches took place in Sheffield, and two of those were home wins, including the last Premier League game between the two. Arsenal have faced the Blades four times at Bramall Lane in the top flight since their last win there – all the way back in 1991. Let’s hope those holding Arsenal tickets do not have a miserable trip home, because yes, the opposition may be newly promoted, but this match is no gimme.

Having said that…
Six of the Blades’ nine points so far this season have come on the road, where they are unbeaten in four matches. You’d think at home, it would be something of a fortress, but since an opening day victory against Crystal Palace, they have lost to Leicester, Southampton and Liverpool (although that last one was a consequence of a keeper howler in a game they deserved to draw). The performance against the league leaders suggests that Arsenal will have to work hard to create opportunities, and that Chris Wilder’s side will focus more on nullifying the Gunners’ attack rather than taking the game to their visitors. Looking too closely at the home form and feeling complacent is not recommended. Emery’s team will have to work hard to get the three points they need to return to third place. It’s a potential ‘it’s grim ‘oop north’ midweek evening game scenario – although the BBC weather forecast at least indicates it won’t be too wet, windy or cold. I predict we’ll still see a few pairs of unnecessary gloves amongst the Arsenal side though.

A clean slate for the team selection
Lucas Torreira flew back from Uruguay duty on Thursday, but didn’t come off the bench in the game the previous evening, and with three days to get over any jet lag, that should not count against him in Unai Emery’s reckoning. So in theory, team selection should not be compromised by who did and didn’t play in Arsenal’s last game. Sure, the rotation is about to come thick and fast, with matches this evening, Thursday, then Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday, but as far as the Premier League goes, the likes of Bellerin, Tierney and Holding are all fit, and more to the point match fit enough to start this evening. One imagines that Alex Lacazette is also fit to start, and you’d think he would given this is on paper the most difficult match when compared with Vitoria and Palace at home over the following six days. So maybe we’ll get an idea of Unai Emery’s genuine first choice eleven tonight.

Time to get philosophical about Sokratis?
If Emery does promote Rob Holding to the starting eleven, either of David Luiz or Sokratis will have to make way. Last season, up until Holding suffered his injury at Old Trafford, he and Sokratis showed signs of forming a decent partnership. The only problem now is that, a year on, the Greek defender seems past his best, not having enjoyed a great season up to now. Still, you could make the same argument about David Luiz, who has been partially responsible for more than one goal which has cost his team points. And of course, Emery being Emery, who is to say he won’t simply leave his centre back partnership used in recent league game games intact, with Holding on the bench. It wouldn’t make sense, but one thing’s for sure, it’s hard work second guessing Unai.

Do the youngsters drop down?
Let’s say Emery started Lacazette and Pepe alongside the certain pick of Aubmaeyang in the front three. Buyako Saka is then on the bench. There won’t be any youngsters along the backline, even if you still count Ainsley Maitland-Niles as one. Bellerin will surely start, but if he doesn’t, Calum Chambers now seems to be the deputy right-back. That leaves us with midfield and Joe Willock competing with Xhaka, Guendouzi, Torreira and Ceballos for a starting berth. Given this is a Monday evening up north, you could foresee Ceballos being on the bench, but surely Xhaka and Guendouzi will get picked. So Joe Willock will be up against Lucas Torreira if there is to be a single home-grown youngster in the Arsenal eleven. My money’s on the Uruguayan.

Conclusion
Surely Sheffield United’s woeful home form cannot continue forever, they even lost to Sunderland in the Carabao Cup. So maybe it’s law of averages time. Having said that, this should be a full strength Arsenal, and we wait to see what impact Tierney and the return of Bellerin bring to the side. So on one level, Emery’s side should have too much for their hosts, but we’ve seen some strange results already in this Premier League season, so you cannot take anything for granted. This though, is a great opportunity and truth to tell, given how poor Chris Wilder’s team have been at home so far, it would be a disappointment if Emery’s team did not enjoy a “good ebening” and return to third place in the table. Here’s hoping!

_______________________________________________________________

The October edition of the monthly (original) Gooner podcast can be listened to and downloaded here

You can follow The Gooner on
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram
or subscribe to our
YouTube channel (where you can find the GoonerFanzineTV weekly podcast)

_______________________________________________________________

Buy the new issue of The Gooner

The current issue of The Gooner can be bought from our online store on this page

Subscribing to The Gooner

If you wish to subscribe to receive every issue of The Gooner by post, UK and abroad options are on this page.

Article Rating

Leave a comment

Sign-in with your Online Gooner forum login to add your comment. If you do not have a login register here.

19
comments

  1. itsRonagain2

    Oct 22, 2019, 09:19 #115173

    SKG - Absolutely spot on as always. The words arent there to describe Arsenal FC anymore. The club is a shameful skeleton of what it was(even in the early to mid 60s as you rightly state). The anaemia and putrid stench of what the club has become compared to years past is truly sickening. I never thought in my lifetime that i be anyway re-visionary about my take on such as Ian Ure, Laurie Brown,Terry Mancini and Jeff Blockley Jimmy MacGill et al but ive got there in the end and if i could i would apologise to them all. They really weren't that bad! Bloomsbury Set sums that club up in a nutshell.

  2. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Oct 22, 2019, 07:40 #115167

    I urge Chris Wilder not to use this win as some kind of benchmark as to his teams progress in the PL - treat it for what it was, a bye, a freebie, a little bonus for working hard and preparing correctly for a game of football. Any team can beat Arsenal if they do three things - be organized, get the first goal and then stay together as a team, Sheffield did that and thoroughly deserved their victory. Mr Wilder should judge his teams progress against sides who are defensively organized, have heart, are led on the pitch and against players who have spherical appendages hanging between their legs. This Arsenal are an experiment in how to make football a non contact sport, they are a latter day "Bloomsbury set" team, designed for the "café society" somewhere to pop in when you just happen to be in London. I just do not recognize Arsenal anymore as the club I first supported in 1961, they were bad then, but I somehow cared then, now I regard them as an experiment that went horribly wrong.

  3. markymark

    Oct 22, 2019, 07:04 #115166

    If the story told by Pedro over at Le Grove has substance, that Freddie is learning Spanish it tells us all we need to know. Miscommunication, confusion, still no capability to alternate or transition. I expect more stories will emerge of player confusion. Mourinho wants the Arsenal job. Do we go down the line of park the bus , does he have something to prove ? The failure of Unai to communicate his ideas and with that the failure to speak a reasonable level of English is a massive question mark. I’d get rid prior to Christmas

  4. BullishBrad

    Oct 22, 2019, 06:54 #115165

    That was a terrible ebening. The lack of creative quality was painful to watch as sideways pass after sideways pass broke down or attacks (if you can call them that) fizzled out because the final ball wasn’t t good enough or the wrong decision was made. The bottom line is Emery isn’t going to drastically improve the defence so we must now outscore teams. We have strikers that can do that but you need to make chances for them and not playing Tierney or even having Ozil as an option was criminal. Ceballos has the work ethic but in terms of unlocking ability Ozil is a level above. Torreira irrespective of his inability to adapt to the culture and league is more creative and marauding than Xkaka. Emery has questions to answer but the most obvious one is can he learn from his mistakes. At some point he will have to take responsibility for these terrible away showings.

  5. BullishBrad

    Oct 22, 2019, 06:54 #115164

    That was a terrible ebening. The lack of creative quality was painful to watch as sideways pass after sideways pass broke down or attacks (if you can call them that) fizzled out because the final ball wasn’t t good enough or the wrong decision was made. The bottom line is Emery isn’t going to drastically improve the defence so we must now outscore teams. We have strikers that can do that but you need to make chances for them and not playing Tierney or even having Ozil as an option was criminal. Ceballos has the work ethic but in terms of unlocking ability Ozil is a level above. Torreira irrespective of his inability to adapt to the culture and league is more creative and marauding than Xkaka. Emery has questions to answer but the most obvious one is can he learn from his mistakes. At some point he will have to take responsibility for these terrible away showings.

  6. TonyEvans

    Oct 22, 2019, 06:15 #115163

    Agree with PaulJames, why are Bellerin and Tierney not starting? So here we are saddled with another clueless manager who is rivalling Wenger in the shoot yourself in the foot stakes! We need a manager who is the polar opposite of Wenger to rid the club completely of his influence - not some half-baked Spanish version seemingly content to follow in his footsteps with his own version of Wenger’s doomed philosophy.

  7. itsRonagain2

    Oct 21, 2019, 22:41 #115162

    Putrid. Not surprised at all though. Like 11 parks players thrown together. Honestly can’t see why anybody has any enthusiasm for any player in the squad. Evra told the unadultered truth tonight about what Arsenal have been for a dozen years yet I bet my backside there’s many who ll condemn him for speaking the truth and saying only what we have been saying for years. Well said Patrice. There’s a reason why the last 10 years of Wengo drained many of us of our love for AFC and in many cases turned us away from football to a large extent. It was all there tonight. Well done Sheff Utd though. I d pay to go to games again if there were fighters to watch like them in red shirts and white sleeves.

  8. John F

    Oct 21, 2019, 21:43 #115161

    I think Arsenal have there very own version of Christian Gross managing .

  9. KC38

    Oct 21, 2019, 21:24 #115160

    A season and a quarter of being pathetic away from home. Xhaka captain, no progress, we are not a proper team. Something is not right, probably poor communication, set up poor, a bad attitude amongst spoilt brats, both centre backs seem to sulk and play kamikaze football, left back cannot defend. The manager takes responsibility and has to go. There is an opportunity to lure Allegri we should try.

  10. Pauljames

    Oct 21, 2019, 21:09 #115159

    Dismal performance, and more evidence that Emery is simply not improving us. Why are Bellerin and Tierney not starting? Thought the two full backs were woeful tonight , whilst Pepe already looks doomed to the expensive flop category. The manager comes across as not knowing his arse from his elbow... it’s hard to have any faith that things will get better if he stays in charge.

  11. John F

    Oct 21, 2019, 21:04 #115157

    That was dismal football yet again.I have not seen a league game this season when I thought we have played really well.The players look like they do not know what they are doing and It summed it up for me when with 3mins to go we played around with the ball at the back again and nearly lost it.We have a bright future but not with clueless the 2nd in charge.

  12. Exiled in Pt

    Oct 21, 2019, 21:01 #115156

    Devoid of ideas, devoid of basic defensive nous. Better team won! Usual away performance. So predictable

  13. markymark

    Oct 21, 2019, 20:55 #115155

    Yes that was me being over confident wasn’t it!

  14. markymark

    Oct 21, 2019, 18:23 #115154

    I’m being far far to confident but fancy a 0-2 to us !

  15. John F

    Oct 21, 2019, 18:18 #115153

    Nearly spot on GR you only got Tierney wrong.He appears to be keeping his best team for Thursday nights.

  16. Pauljames

    Oct 21, 2019, 17:10 #115152

    Very hard to fancy us away from home, we’ve won 8 of 23 away PL games under Dick, and the ratio was no better in Wengers last two seasons. It’s games like tonight we simply have to win if we are to finish top 4, but you wouldn’t be putting any money on it.

  17. GoonerRon

    Oct 21, 2019, 12:40 #115151

    Big game this. Chance to go 4 points clear of 5th place, 6 clear of Spuds and 8 clear of Man U. With 7 games in 20 days coming up I don’t think we’ll see a set Emery first XI just yet - plenty of rotation coming up I reckon. I don’t think we’ll see Bellerin or Lacazette start tonight. I think it will be Leno: Chambers, Sokratis, Luiz, Tierney: Xhaka, Guendouzi, Willock: Pepe, Auba, Saka. As always, a win first, a clean sheet second and hopefully a performance where we can see some progression.

  18. TonyEvans

    Oct 21, 2019, 11:43 #115150

    Emery's team selections can be every bit as baffling as Wenger's used to be so it will be interesting, now the squad is virtually at full strength, to see who makes the cut. I would bet on it not being the team I would pick! As Ron said not an easy place to pick up points but these are the type of games that sorts the men from the boys, so here's hoping.

  19. itsRonagain2

    Oct 21, 2019, 08:53 #115149

    Hi Kev - Ive got this for a draw. 1-1 . Hard place to go when the locals are in full voice. I can recall going there for a league cup game. Must have been 2005 time. We won on pens. Missed the last train back because we stayed for the pens and could only get back as far as Nottingham and had to do a travel lodge overnight. It was a pretty awful 0-0 at full time on a rainy night. Can recall Warnock was in charge there. Cant remember anything about the game. Vieira played and had to hold a team of stiffs and youngsters together. Whatever possessed us to go to that lord only knows. Cant imagine ever, ever doing that again!