Nicolas Pepe was the clear standout for Arsenal, as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Sheffield United after Gabriel Martinelli’s strike was cancelled out by John Fleck.
In an evenly contested first half, Arsenal grabbed the lead through Gabriel Martinelli, who after failing to convert a couple of chances created by Nicolas Pepe, scored from Bukayo Saka’s cross at the stroke of half-time. The second period was pretty much the same as the opening 45 minutes, but the Gunners were left frustrated when Pepe was denied a penalty.
Sheffield United grew into the game from thereon and capitalized on their momentum, as John Fleck scored from close range to ensure the spoils were shared. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Mikel Arteta’s men following another setback in terms of a result.
Bernd Leno: 6/10
There was not an awful lot that Leno had to do on Saturday, with chances coming few and far between for Sheffield United. The German custodian made a couple of regulation saves and looked fairly comfortable for much of the game. Could not have done much to deny John Fleck after the original shot had been deflected off of Ainlsey Maitland-Niles.
Ainlsey Maitland-Niles: 5/10
Not the best of outings for Maitland-Niles, who struggled to make an impact in the game. The game started on a horrible note for the makeshift full-back, who gave the ball away early on before Enda Stevens had an open cross to make into the Arsenal box. Never really managed to create sustained pressure in the final third and then saw the ball deflect off him for Sheffield United’s goal.
Shkodran Mustafi: 6/10
Much like Maitland-Niles, Mustafi was slow off the blocks and did not quite strike the right chord with David Luiz to begin with. Slowly grew into the game as it progressed and held his own in some tough situations. Still does not ooze that confidence, though.
David Luiz: 6.5/10
Luiz has been one of the most improved players for Arsenal under Arteta. Saturday’s performance, though, was rather underwhelming from the Brazilian, who was not as proactive while moving the ball forward. Defensively, he continues to impress, but this game had more to do with what he did with the ball at his feet than his defensive prowess. Slightly underwhelming, hence.
Bukayo Saka: 7/10
With both Sead Kolasinac and Kieran Tierney sidelined, Saka was named as a makeshift left-back. And, the youngster excelled in the role, making quite an impression on his forays down the flank and provided the assist for Martinelli’s goal. Defensively, he showed definitive improvements and apart from some understandable lapses, he was solid. A step in the right direction.
Granit Xhaka: 7/10
A top notch performance by Xhaka, who held the fort well in the middle of the park, rarely letting his counterparts past him. Built play up smartly as well and in some parts of the game, it looked as if the Xhaka of old was back. The moment of the game for him, though, was his clearance off the line, with the Swiss midfielder showing nerves of steel. Superb.
Lucas Torreira: 7/10
Here’s a player who seems to be the perfect complement for Xhaka; someone to do the calming job in the middle of the park. Torreira does that quite well. Looked to move the ball quickly and linked up well with Pepe, which helped Arsenal in their best phases.
Nicolas Pepe: 8/10
By far, Arsenal’s best player in the game. Pepe really seems to have come of age since Arteta was named as the Arsenal boss. A bundle of energy all throughout, the Ivorian constantly looked to make things happen and could have easily had a couple of early assists, if not for poor finishing by Martinelli.
Pepe was then denied a stonewall penalty in the second half, even after replays showed that he had been bodied into. Did all he could to get the result, but it was not to be for him at the end of the day.
Mesut Ozil: 6/10
After a terrific start to life under Arteta, Ozil has faded in the last couple of games. He did have his fair share of moments and played his part in the build-up to Martinelli’s goal, but Ozil struggled to make himself a factor throughout the game. Needs to find that element of consistency.
Gabriel Martinelli: 7/10
With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang suspended, this was Martinelli’s chance to impress. And impress he did. With Arsenal without their captain and top scorer, Martinelli became the biggest threat in front of goal on the day, although he should have done better to finish the two early chances that Pepe created for him.
Gabriel Martinelli this season:
📊directly involved in a goal every 85 minutes
His first season in Europe. Fenomeno. pic.twitter.com/SCqZ5PU6aV
— FootballTalentScout – Jacek Kulig (@FTalentScout) January 18, 2020
Did eventually get his goal, however, and it was the simplest of finishes after Saka’s cross came to him within point-blank range of the goal. His liveliness made him a constant nuisance and there is a sense that Martinelli should be starting more Premier League games.
Alexandre Lacazette: 6/10
Another underwhelming performance by Lacazette. The star striker and Arsenal’s skipper for the day had a role to play for Martinelli’s goal, initiating the move with a brilliant pass. Other than that, though, Lacazette struggled to impose himself on the opposition defenders. Where has his menacing touch disappeared?
Eddie Nketiah: N/A
On for the final 15 minutes, Nketiah was a lively presence on the pitch and even created a chance. Could there be an opportunity for him to become a regular part of the team going forward?