Can Arsenal outwit a highly organized Sheffield United?

Preview of this afternoon’s game at the Emirates

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The usual five talking points ahead of today’s Premier League fixture at home to Sheffield United.

Kolasinac and Torreira doubtful
Both players face fitness tests before the game, but with Chelsea away on Tuesday, Mikel Arteta will surely look to manage without these two players today. A Xhaka – Guendouzi midfield is a near certainty, with Bukayo Saka on the left side of defence with a licence to add to the attacking contingent. Arteta seems to prefer the team to play in a 2 -3 -5 formation when they are going forward, with the right back tucking in alongside the midfielders to shield the two centre backs. Given Sheffield United will be selective about when they advance in numbers, the risks of Saka going forward are less than they might be against more tactically aggressive opponents.

The Blades are a difficult prospect away from Bramall Lane
Chris Wilder’s team have played 11 away games so far in the league this season, and their record is impressive for a newly-promoted team. They don't take too many risks, and would be well-suited to playing on, such is there approach to matches away from home. The evidence is their record of three wins, six draws (including Chelsea and Spurs) and only two defeats. Those losses were against Manchester City and Liverpool though. Yet, there’s a glimmer of light here. The two defeats also happen to be their last two away outings. So maybe the magic has worn off and the confidence has taken a bit of a dip? They lost both matches 2-0. Guys, we have to clutch at some straws here, ok?

Just don't be expecting too many goals
Only two of those eleven away trips have seen more than two goals scored in total. 2-0? 1-0? 1-1? 0-0? Or even worse 0-1 or 0-2. Fans of a certain age will think they’re watching Arsenal circa 1991 play Arsenal 2020. It’s likely to be a tight match and if one team wins it, it will be by a single goal. There’s no doubt that world bookies will be offering odds on for under 2.5 goals in this game, as the Blades rarely do goalfests. It’s grim oop north so I’m told.

Injustice to be corrected?
The return fixture last October will be remembered for the non-award of a penalty for a blatant shirt pull on Sokratis. So much for VAR, eh? United won the game 1-0 with a tap-in after Arsenal failed to defend a corner. It was the first match in a run of seven Premier League fixtures that Unai Emery’s, and then Freddie Ljungberg’s sides failed to win. Ahead of the visit to Stamford Bridge, Arteta’s team could really use a win this afternoon. Given the Blades’ impressive campaign up to this point, it would actually feel like quite a scalp to take three points. And if Chris Wilder complains about dodgy decisions after the game, it would make things really nice and tidy.

So who will score the goal(s)?
Pierre Emerick Aubameyang begins his three match suspension today, although positionally that won’t change too much. Alex Lacazette has been playing centrally, and it would make for a simple swap if Gabriel Martinelli came in for Auba. As for the right side of attack, Arteta has had a week to work with Nicholas Pepe and given how much the player cost the club, they’ll want to see more return than they’ve had so far from the winger. Whether or not Pepe’s game improves – both with and without the ball – will be a signpost of Arteta’s abilities as a developer of players. He has a reputation from Man City, and neither Sterling or Sane came cheap. Pepe is a similar type – young with rough edges that need ironing out. Out of the three though, if you were to put your money on someone to find the net, it would be Martinelli. Laca’s goal drought has to end sometime though.

On paper, rather like last weekend’s game at Selhurst Park, this game has 1-1 written all over it. Especially with Arsenal minus their normal source of goals. Still, it’s an opportunity to step up for other players. And if the defence can keep a clean sheet, it would help things immensely. In four league matches so far, four goals have been conceded. There are signs of improvement after shipping 27 in the opening 18 matches of the current campaign. In truth it’s the most urgent area of the team’s performances that needs addressing. Transfer window anyone?


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  1. John F

    Jan 18, 2020, 18:17 #116246

    I only saw it once but that looked like a blatant penalty on Pepe.I might be going a bit untold here but we do appear to be on the wrong end of a lot of var decisions that would make it 12 pts dropped by bad decisions according to Espn . There is a lot of money to be made on draws in the betting market. Up until the Shef Utd goal, I thought we were playing well against a very well organised team but surely Pepe needs to switch sides. Spare a thought for my son his train gets delayed and he only just gets there in time only to be desperate for the toilet just when Martinelli scored.200 miles, a 5 hour journey;£100 lighter just to see a Sheff Utd goal.

  2. Nicky3336

    Jan 18, 2020, 17:40 #116245

    Martinelli looks like a real player and one for next season so long as we can keep him and a sillY offer doesn’t come to our board. As for today with Matalan Tiles, Mistake-afi and Sacka in defence what did you expect against the Blades. Least it’ll give the social media boys lots to go on about and Nobby and his little chum Droopz can send their direct messages to their self proclaimed mates in the first team squad. Here’s to the season end and Arteta removing the dross. 8th will be our position come May.

  3. ArsenalMagna

    Jan 18, 2020, 17:39 #116244

    Pretty predictable result. I have no interest in the league this season - I just hope we get enough points up to the end of March so that we can focus on the FA Cup and Europa League across April and May, resting players in the EPL. Some brutal matches still to play, many of which are in April: City, Spurs, Chelsea and Wolves away, plus Leicester at home. I just hope we get enough points over matches that we don't start talking about a relegation battle again - that really was horrible.

  4. Exiled in Pt

    Jan 18, 2020, 17:00 #116243

    Still can't kill games off and maybe the wrong substitution taking Laca off!! Can only presume that was because we have another game on Tuesday. One thing for sure as much as we are improving we are mid table and miles away from top 4...

  5. Exiled in Pt

    Jan 18, 2020, 15:56 #116242

    I have to hold my hands up I was quick to say we would barely see him play this season I was wrong and he has looked class every time he has played. Good poachers goal to end the half. Along with Saka and some of the other young players we have a bright future, if like you say Ron we can keep hold of them. Arteta will have to do it the hard way but he is making them all look better game by game.. Hope that does not curse the 2nd half.

  6. itsRonagain2

    Jan 18, 2020, 14:13 #116241

    Could be Martinelli s time. Let’s hope so. He s the one glimpse of sunshine and light for me this season. Arsenal need to shape up pretty quick if they want to hold onto the lad for the next couple or 3 seasons.

  7. itsRonagain2

    Jan 18, 2020, 14:10 #116240

    If it was our 91 team playing SU I d be far more confident of a win than we can be with this disparate shower going up against them.

  8. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Jan 18, 2020, 10:57 #116239

    United are like so many teams in the Championship and below, very well coached, collectively much better than their individual players. Arsenal used to be like that under George Graham and it made them very hard to beat, Sheffield will be hard to beat and if we do concede a goal it will as Kev stated end up a 1 - 1 draw.