Result: Sheffield United 0-3 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 11 April 2021
Venue: Bramall Lane
Arsenal: Leno, Chambers, Holding, Mari, Saka, Xhaka, Partey, Ceballos, Pepe, Martinelli, Lacazette
Subs: Ryan, Bellerin, Cedric, Gabriel, Elneny, Azeez, Willian, Nelson, Nketiah
Alex Lacazette scored a brace and Gabriel Martinelli netted his first goal of the season as Arsenal ran out comfortable 3-0 winners against bottom-place Sheffield United.
On a night when the Gunners were rarely troubled by the Blades, Mikel Arteta’s side even managed to end a 15-game run without a clean sheet.
The only negative was an injury to Bukayo Saka who went down in the second half holding his thigh.
Unable to call on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Emile Smith Rowe, Martin Odegaard, Mikel Arteta was forced into a raft of changes from the side that started Thursday’s clash with Slavia Prague. Intriguingly, in the absence of Kieran Tierney, he opted to play Granit Xhaka at left-back. He had Pablo Mari and Rob Holding inside him with Calum Chambers playing right-back. In midfield, Dani Ceballos partnered Thomas Partey while Bukayo Saka took on the number 10 role. Gabriel Martinelli and Nicolas Pepe were charged with helping out Alex Lacazette in attack. Youngster Miguel Azeez made a ragtag bench.
Given Sheffield United’s form this season, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Arsenal dominated the first half but with this current crop of players, you’re never quite sure what is going to happen.
To be fair, we looked sharp from the off – Saka, played in by Martinelli, fired over Ramsdale’s bar inside two minutes – but we didn’t exactly go hammer and tongs at the Blades. We worked neat triangles and tried to find ways through the home side’s low block, but only Martinelli looked like he was drooling at the chance to get on the scoresheet.
You might argue the Brazilian was too eager to score. Having not found the net since that goal at Stamford Bridge, he seemed to be hellbent on putting things right. He hit the side-netting on 24 minutes and forced Ramsdale into a save when he cut onto his right foot. A minute later, he went to the touchline and pulled back for Chambers who had a shot at the back post cleared by a defender. Just before the
A goal had been coming and when it finally did it was really classy. Partey, Saka and a Ceballos backheel freed Lacazette and the Frenchman took a touch before stroking home. It was a just reward for a decent, busy half by the striker. (1-0)
The home side had chances of their own. McGoldrick dragged wide as early as the 10th minute and Egan forced Leno into a save.
The Gunners might have doubled the lead just before the break but Martinelli’s sidefoot effort after a corner fell to him was again blocked. The youngster let out a huge screa of frustration. He really, really wanted a goal.
Arsenal seemed comfortable luring Sheffield United forward and then trying to work the ball through the lines when we stole the ball. Xhaka’s ability to spread play from left-back lead to a charging run by Chambers and ended with Lacazette curling wide after he was teed up by Pepe.
With a lead to protect we were more conservative than we needed to be and the game drifted into the hour-mark and beyond with neither side really doing much.
More worrying than anything the home side was doing were the injuries our players started picking up. Martinelli turned his ankle and required treatment before Saka went down holding his thigh. The England international was immediately replaced by Willian and once he reached the bench he had a huge icepack strapped to his leg. He’ll presumably be a doubt for Thursday’s game in Prague.
If that was a worry, at least Martinelli put a smile on the face of stressed supporters by finally getting his goal. The Brazilian stole in at the far post to tap home after Pepe had forced Ramsdale into a save. It was the easiest goal the 19-year-old will ever score but he absolutely loved it. (2-0)
Alex Lacazette sealed the win with five minutes remaining as he latched onto a fine through ball by Thomas Partey to whip the ball first time past Ramsdale. It was his 50th Premier League goal since he joined from Lyon in 2017 and his 15th of the season. (3-0)
The win moves the Gunners up to ninth in the table and provides a timely boost ahead of Thursday’s must-win Europa League quarter-final.