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Arsenal look for Consistency and Commitment Against Dogged Sheffield United – Match Preview


Arsenal are set to resume their league campaign this Saturday as Premier League darlings, Sheffield United come to the Emirates Stadium. In a rare 15.00 kickoff, Arsenal are looking to continue the positive trajectory under new head coach Mikel Arteta, against an opponent that has caused many an opponent substantial trouble.

When Last We Met

 Arsenal travelled to Bramall Lane back in October of 2019. Unai Emery set up his side in a 4-2-3-1 without many of the starters we see back in the squad today.


Starting Lineups from the first meeting at Bramall Lane


At Bramall Lane, Arsenal had 69% of the possession but still lacked any advantage in shots, xG or the only stat that really matters the final score. In attack they only managed one clear cut chance which came off the counter-attack.

With their dominant possession, Arsenal managed 603 passes but only 173 of them were forward passes. In fact, 71% of the Gunners passes were sideways or backwards. In the end, only 1 in 4 of their passes were forward.

As was typical of the Unai Emery era, Arsenal were lethargic in attack. Emery’s set up and “style of play” lacked any creativity or positivity and the visitors were unable to break down a well-disciplined Sheffield United.

Scouting our Opponent

There is one constant we are seeing this season with Chris Wilder’s side and it is their lack of fear when playing against the Premier League’s perennial top sides.

After his side drew 2-2 with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, that lack of dear was clearly articulated in Wilder’s post-match comments

“Three years ago we were bottom of League One and now we have come away from Chelsea with a result,” said Wilder. “We are not day trippers getting autographs and collecting shirts.”

Wilder’s squad have come into the Premier League much like they played in the Championship, with a system and philosophy of play that every player on the pitch and on the bench is committed to playing how Wilder wants them to.

Wilder typically likes to play with a 3-5-2 or variations of that. Defensively it resorts to compact flat five off the ball and deep in their final third. Yet, that is a last resort as they are also quite effective with an aggressive press from the front and deep in the opposition final third.


The Blades are effective at quickly and aggressively closing down space and denying the ability to progress the ball forward in an opponent’s defensive third.

It’s in attack however, that the Blades have been really impressive. Wilder’s tactics like to employ the creation of overloads wherever possible. So much so that he’s become a master at getting them set up.

Against West Ham United (as illustrated below) the Blades have six men ahead of the ball and nine of their ten outfielders coming forward with the play. The only thing saving West Ham is their deep block.


Overloads are a consistent theme you see in the Blades attacks

Against Arsenal at Bramall Lane, these overloads were constantly seen on the left-hand side of the pitch as Wilder was trying to exploit Arsenal slow transitions and trying to isolate either Chambers or Guendouzi. Luckily for Arsenal, they did not concede from open play. However, they did manage to concede 7 corners wherein the 31st minute, the Blades were able to score.


(diagram via TFA and Whoscored – moving left to right) – Highlighted areas of the Blades attack versus Arsenal in October.

Chris Wilder has done a tremendous job of sustaining the level of play that the Blades exhibited in the Championship. They were had the same defensive rigidity and the same tactical fluency they’ve shown in their league play thus far. The result is they are locked in on sustaining their Premier League run for another year.

Can Arsenal Survive Without Aubameyang

 Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang will serve the first of his three-match suspensions beginning with the Blades’ visit to the Emirates. It creates a massive hole in the Arsenal attack as the Captain accounts for 48% of the Gunners’ goals scored this season.

The question remains who can replace the Gabon forward. Eddie Nketiah is an option as he will remain at the club after being recalled from his Leeds loan. Additionally, Martinelli and Reiss Nelson are available to cover for him, with Martinelli usually taking up the left-wing spot when he’s come on.

The question is which one of them can create the movement off the ball and who understands the movement of the players around him so that he can find the right space to run into. It’s a trait that has made Aubameyang so successful.

The reality is it all depends on what Arteta wants that left wing to do. Both Nelson and Martinelli possess the movement off the ball that Auba has but it’s only Martinelli who has been the more effective of the two in front of goal. Additionally, it’s Martinelli who has had more experience playing on the left wing.

Given all that it’s more than likely that Arteta moves the Brazillian in place of the Arsenal captain. Jurgen Klopp had this to say about him:

“He’s really unbelievable. So young, looks so mature already, is a proper threat. Yeah, he looks like a really decent player.

“That’s really difficult to deal with these guys. Martinelli’s pretty much the same age [as Liverpool defender Sepp Van De Berg] but he’s a talent of the century, he’s an incredible striker”

How the Match Will Play Out

Arsenal can expect no favours and they are going to have to work for every chance they get. What they will also have to work on is being “switched on” for the entire 90 minutes which was their downfall last week.

Sheffield United will remain consistent with their approach and look to deny Arsenal any clear-cut chances as they look to be more threatening with the ball then when last they met. With inexperienced fullbacks on either side we should expect Wilder to try and expose one flank or the other.

What we can be sure of is it will be a cagey affair with the Blades looking to dent and frustrate Arsenal’s attempts at climbing up the table.

YAMA Predicts

Arsenal 1 – 1 Sheffield United

What The Head Coach Is Saying (courtesy

I’ve been very impressed. I’ve seen a lot of games and everything is prepared. Everything they do has a real sense, they are really difficult to break down. The solidarity in their team is incredible, how hard they work for each other and they have very clear principles – in attack and in defence, restarts of play, set-pieces – with what they want to do. So it will be a very difficult test. I already warned the players today.

Arsenal Record vs Opponent (League Only)

7P 2W 2L 3D

Last 5

Arsenal: DDLWD

Sheffield United: WDLLW

Average Goals Scored Per Game

Arsenal: 1.55 (home)

Sheffield United: 1.00 (away)

Average Goals Conceded Per Game

Arsenal: 1.55 (home)

Sheffield United: 1.00 (away)

Match Officials

 Referee: Mike Dean
Assistants: Ian Hussin, Dan Robathan
Fourth official: Lee Mason
VAR: Martin Atkinson
Assistant VAR: Sian Massey-Ellis.

Match Facts (Courtesy

  • Since losing 2-1 at West Brom in November 2015, Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 21 Premier League matches that have kicked off at 15:00 on a Saturday. Their last such defeat at home was against Aston Villa in August 2013.
  • The Gunners have won only one of their last seven home league matches, although that victory came last time out against Manchester United.
  • Sheffield United are looking for their first league double over Arsenal since the 1946/47 season, and could become the first promoted team to complete a league double over Arsenal since Blackburn Rovers in 1992/93.
  • John Fleck has been involved in the most Premier League goals this season without any of them coming away from home. His four goals and two assists have all come at Bramall Lane.

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