Arsenal 2-1 Sheffield United: Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe’s quickfire second-half goals seal victory for Mikel Arteta’s men despite David McGoldrick’s late strike
- Arsenal bounced back from their defeat in the Premier League against Liverpool with victory on Sunday
- Bukayo Saka opened the scoring on the hour mark by nodding home a well-worked passage of play
- Moments later substitute Nicolas Pepe doubled the lead by picking out the bottom corner after a mazy run
- David McGoldrick pulled one back for the Blades late on with a curled effort from the edge of the area
- The Gunners have taken nine points from their first four games, with Sheffield United yet to register a victory
Four devastating minutes of attacking flair ended Sheffield United’s gritty resistance and provided further proof that Arsenal are back.
It was far from convincing but following their first defeat of the season at champions Liverpool on Monday the Gunners have returned to winning ways.
That is all that matters to Mikel Arteta this morning. Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe provided the crucial blows as Arsenal withstood United’s fightback to clinch victory. Chris Wilder, amid his fury that David Luiz was not sent off in the fifth minute, should be proud of his men. Arsenal were clinging on for dear life by the end.
Nicolas Pepe’s placed effort saw Arsenal double their lead at the Emirates and see out a 2-1 victory against Sheffield United
The Ivorian was mobbed by his team-mates after his goal and immediate impact in the fixture at the Emirates
Pepe places home into the bottom corner to extend the Gunners’ lead in the second half against the Blades
Pepe had only entered the action moments earlier, and was given a thorough set of instructions by Mikel Arteta
David McGoldrick scored a late consolation with a sublime curled effort, but it wasn’t enough to spur his side to an equaliser
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
ARSENAL (3-4-2-1): Leno 6; Luiz 6.5, Gabriel 7.5, Tierney 6.5; Bellerin 7.5, Ceballos 6.5 (Xhaka 81), Elneny 7, Saka 7 (Maitland-Niles 87); Willian 6.5, Aubameyang 6.5; Nketiah 6 (Pepe 58, 8).
Subs: Runarsson, Lacazette, Holding, Willock.
Manager: Mikel Arteta: 7
SHEFFIELD UTD (3-5-2): Ramsdale 6.5; Basham 6 (Sharp 76), Egan 6.5, Robinson 6.5; Baldock 6.5, Lundstrom 6.5, Berge 7, Osborn 6 (Fleck 63, 6), Stevens 6.5; Burke 7 (McBurnie 56, 5.5), McGoldrick 7. Subs: Foderingham, Lowe, Norwood, Ampadu.
Manager: Chris Wilder: 6.5
Referee: Lee Mason 5
But Luiz’s fortunate escape won’t concern Arsenal. Not so long ago Arsenal would have caved in at the end of this clash.
But under Arteta, the Gunners are made of sterner stuff and this win was indicative of their growing backbone.
‘What I liked was that we adapted to a different scenario from the two games against Liverpool,’ said Arteta. ‘We had to hang in there and suffer but we played the game we had to play.’
The first half, much like the weather, was nothing to write home about. No lack of endeavour but a distinct lack of goalmouth entertainment.
The closest either side went to scoring was when Blades keeper Aaron Ramsdale, following his initial mistake, tipped over Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s long-range effort that looked destined to dip underneath his crossbar.
The visitors were organised and gutsy, suffocating Arsenal’s attacking intent. On another day they may have had a man advantage for the vast majority of the game, with Luiz grasping a handful of Oliver Burke’s shirt while trying to cover for team-mate Gabriel’s sloppy back-pass.
Wilder’s booming protests filled the Emirates. Burke was determined to have his say too but referee Lee Mason was undeterred.
Arsenal had got away with one and finished the first half with 73 per cent possession but Aubameyang’s dipping effort and a tame Eddie Nketiah header was all they had to show for it.
The second period continued in a similar fashion. Arsenal probed without any initial joy but Aubameyang was inches from getting a toe on Dani Ceballos’s intelligent first-time pass in the 53rd minute.
Arteta introduced record signing Pepe in place of the quiet Nketiah just before the hour mark in hope of igniting an attack that had looked pedestrian. The substitution proved the key moment as the Ivorian inspired his stuttering team to victory.
Pepe had a sizeable hand in the opener during an incisive move that concluded with Saka nodding home at the back post from Hector Bellerin’s stood-up cross in the 61st minute.
It was the perfect way for the Gunners youngster to celebrate his first senior England call-up. He will walk into St George’s Park on Monday floating on air.
But it was Pepe who emerged as Arsenal’s hero.
Blades defender Enda Stevens tried his best to keep pace with Pepe as the forward collected Bellerin’s pass not far from the halfway line.
Youngster Bukayo Saka had opened the scoring with a deft, placed header following a slick passage of play
Saka, who recently earned his first call-up to the England squad, heads home into the top corner to give Arsenal the lead
Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had gone close after cutting inside and curling one of his trademark attempts
Hector Bellerin got both assists for the Gunners as they bounced back from their defeat against Liverpool in the league
Pepe powered forward leaving Stevens trailing in his wake before stroking a left-foot finish past Ramsdale to score what proved to be the decisive goal for Arteta’s side.
A quite brilliant solo effort — Arteta’s shriek of delight said it all.
The Arsenal boss’s impact on this game from the bench was telling too, with the decision to bring on Pepe inspired.
Pepe’s goal should have been the signal for Arsenal to canter home, but Wilder’s dogged side had other ideas.
Arsenal looked like they had the situation under control when David McGoldrick had the ball at his feet about 20 yards out.
But the Gunners had not banked on the United forward executing a brilliant curled effort that arced beyond keeper Bernd Leno’s dive to give the Blades hope.
The striker was left ruing the missed opportunity after thinking he had given the Gunners first blood in the contest
In the early stages David Luiz was lucky to remain on the field after appearing to pull back Oliver Burke as the last man
Buoyed by their first Premier League goal of the season Wilder’s men threw it all at Arsenal, a stoppage-time McGoldrick shot cannoning off Gabriel — who was immense — for a late corner.
The defeat was gallant but a loss is a loss, Wilder needs no reminder of that. Four defeats from four will enhance concerns of how this season might transpire for a team who took the Premier League by storm last term.
But it’s onwards and upwards for Arteta’s Arsenal.
A memorial to Metropolitian Police Sergeant Matt Ratana was placed inside the Emirates stadium before kick-off
Coronavirus warnings seen in place inside the Emirates tunnel, warning players and staff to maintain social distancing
Sky Sports microphones were seen covered at pitch-side due to the poor weather conditions in north London