Arsenal will be hoping to return to winning ways when they welcome Sheffield United to the Emirates on Saturday.
Premier League action resumes this weekend with Gameweek 23 of the 2018-19 season. The ‘Goal Rush’ segment will have some fascinating encounters on offer, but no bigger than the one that will see Arsenal play hosts to Sheffield United at the Emirates on Saturday afternoon.
The results might not necessarily reflect it, but Arsenal have certainly been on the up since the appointment of Mikel Arteta. There appears to be a structure at the back, while some life has been breathed into the attack as well, although some issues still remain in the side. Last time out, the Gunners were held to a 1-1 draw by Crystal Palace.
Sheffield United, on the other hand, have been the surprise package in the Premier League this term, building up a strong season on the back of a solid defence and a strong core unit. The Blades are currently stationed at sixth place on the table, with only leaders Liverpool letting in fewer goals than them.
The reverse fixture, played at Bramall Lane in October, ended in a 1-0 win for Sheffield United, with Lys Mousset scoring the only goal of the game, as Unai Emery neared the end of his stint as the Arsenal manager. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
The roster issues are just not easing up for Mikel Arteta. In fact, ahead of the visit of Sheffield United on Saturday, the Arsenal manager could be without as many as six first-team players due to injuries and suspension.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the major absentee for Arteta, with the Arsenal captain serving the first of his three-match suspension, accrued due to the straight red card he was shown at Crystal Palace last weekend. Apart from Aubameyang’s absence, the full-back slots are posing a lot of problems for the Arsenal boss.
Kieran Tierney is a long-term absentee due to a shoulder injury, while Sead Kolasinac is facing a race against time to be available against Sheffield United due his ongoing recovery from a minor thigh injury. Hector Bellerin, meanwhile, is still working his way back to fitness and is unlikely to be ready to return just yet.
In Bellerin’s continued absence, Ainsley Maitland-Niles is a certain starter on the right side of the Arsenal defence. On the opposite flank, Bukayo Saka will likely come into the side if Kolasinac is unable to prove his fitness. David Luiz and Sokratis Papastathopoulos will continue as the central defensive partnership, with Bernd Leno keeping his place in goal.
Up ahead in midfield, Lucas Torreira is a doubt due to a hip injury he sustained last weekend and will be assessed ahead of the visit of Sheffield United. In case Torreira is not fit enough to start, Matteo Guendouzi will be the player to provide company to former Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka in the midfield double pivot.
In attack, the big bone of contention will be picking Aubameyang’s replacement. Reiss Nelson ought to be in the discussion after a strong showing against Leeds United last week. However, Gabriel Martinelli will likely pip Nelson to the spot on the left wing. Nicolas Pepe will start on the right flank, with Mesut Ozil playing off the central striker, Alexandre Lacazette.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Leno; Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Luiz, Saka; Guendouzi, Xhaka; Pepe, Ozil, Martinelli; Lacazette
Unlike his counterpart in the Arsenal dugout, Chris Wilder does not have any pressing injury concerns hampering his preparations. On Saturday, the Sheffield United manager will have all of his resources available to him, with backup goalkeepers Simon Moore and Michael Verrips fit and available.
Wilder should name his side in a 3-5-2 formation once again, with the wing-backs having a lot of importance in the system. George Baldock and Enda Stevens will be the two wing-backs, who will add to the numbers in the defensive phase while posing a lot of threat with their delivered from the flanks when charging forward.
The back three will be manned by Chris Basham, John Egan and Jack O’Connell, with the trio charged with keeping a check on Alexandre Lacazette. Manchester United loanee Dean Henderson will be the man in goal, where he could face plenty of shots from distance.
In the middle of the park, Oliver Norwood, who will don the armband for Sheffield United, will look to hold the fort in front of defence, with John Fleck and John Lundstram recycling possession. Fleck will also pose a threat with long range efforts as well as ghosting runs into the box. David McGoldrick and Oliver McBurnie should form the strike partnership against Arsenal.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Henderson; Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens; McGoldrick, McBurnie
1. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.90
2. Under 11.5 Corners @ 1.72
1. Full Time Result – Draw @ 3.80
- Sheffield United are winless in 16 away matches against Arsenal in all competitions since earning a 1-0 top-flight victory in August 1971 (D4 L12). The Blades, though, are looking for their first league double over Arsenal since the 1946-47 season.
- Arsenal have managed to win just one of their last seven home games in the Premier League (D3 L3). In fact, the Gunners have only won two of their past 14 league games (D7 L5).
- Sheffield United, who were unbeaten in their first nine away league games this season, have lost their last two top-flight match-ups on the road.
- Arsenal have won just one of 11 matches against other clubs currently in the top half of the table (D5 L5).
- Sheffield United midfielder John Fleck has been involved in the most Premier League goals this season without a single goal or assist coming away from home (6 – 4 goals, 2 assists all at Bramall Lane).
Player to Watch
It has been quite a struggle for Lacazette this season. Since returning from his injury a couple of months ago, the Frenchman has not really been at his sharpest, with good performances coming only few and far between.
However, with Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang suspended after his horrific challenge on Max Meyer last week, Lacazette, who will likely don the armband against Sheffield United, will have even more responsibility on his shoulders. It is now or never for the star striker; high time he steps up when Arsenal most need him to.
Arsenal 1-1 Sheffield United
Performances might have improved on the pitch for Arsenal, but they need to start reflecting on the results as well. However, in Sheffield United, the Gunners face one of the strongest travellers in the Premier League this season, meaning their task does not get any easier.
With Sheffield United boasting quite a mean defence, Arsenal, who are already without captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, could struggle to pose a huge threat in front of goals once again. Expect a close contest, with Arsenal dominating the possession, only to be largely restricted to shots from range.
In the end, the final result will come down to slimmest of margins, with very little separating the two sides. The Hard Tackle predicts Arsenal and Sheffield United to play out a 1-1 draw, a result that will be quite a setback for Mikel Arteta & co.