Arsenal (H) | Pre-Match Review
Sheffield United vs Arsenal 21/10/2019
English Premier League
With the Blades having not won a home game in the league since Crystal Palace in August, Wilder be hoping for a change of fortunes against an Arsenal that can be got at on occasions, despite being 3rd in the league.
Last Time Out
Arsenal 6 (Bendtner 31, 42 Vela 44, 50, 87 Wilshere 57) - 0 Sheffield United - 23/09/2008
As much as I’d love to talk about Christian Nade’s winner in late 2006, we played Arsenal twice after that, unfortunately.
The last time was the gubbing from their youth team against our pretty much full-strength side.
The United team that day read: Kenny, Halford, Kilgallon, Morgan, Naysmith, Cotterill, Montgomery, Speed, Quinn, Beattie, Webber. With a bench which featured Sharp, Ehiogu, Hendrie, Naughton and Geary.
I do get fairly nostalgic about this team, it was an enjoyable time for me personally, I was starting to get served in pubs probably helped.
There was always an element of excitement around Arsenal League Cup sides during this period. The internet hadn’t fully blossomed into what it is now, people were only just starting to play Fifa again (with Pro Evo being the better game at the time) and there was still an air of mystery surrounding Arsene Wenger’s recruitment of young gems. Could the Blades and Arsenal fans that evening have seen the next big thing in football before their very eyes?
Nicklas Bendtner now of FC Copenhagen opened the scoring and added another, followed by Carlos Vela of LAFC who added the first of his hat trick of goals in the 44th minute and West Ham’s Jack Wilshere scored his first competitive senior goals.
We got battered.
Wilshere was mesmeric that evening and had many up and down the country talking about how he was finally going to be the player England had long missed since Paul Gascoigne. Whilst trying not to sound like I’m disparaging the above-named players, who have accomplished a lot in their professional field (Vela recently scored the most goals in MLS history). It’s strange what can happen to a player in 10 years. Some are plagued by injuries and suffer under the pressure of being England’s great white hope. While others can end up being quite shit, in Bendtner’s case.
Summer at Arsenal
Notable Ins: Nicolas Pepe (£72m, Lille), William Saliba (£27m, Saint Etienne but loaned back to the club for 19/20), Kieran Tierney (£25m, Celtic), David Luiz (£8m, Chelsea), Gabriel Martinelli (£6m, Ituano), Dani Ceballos (Loan, Real Madrid)
Notable Outs: Alex Iwobi (£28m, Everton), Krystian Bielik (£7.5m, Derby County), Laurent Koscielny (£4.5m, Bordeaux), David Ospina (£3.5m, Napoli), Dominic Thompson (£3m, Brentford), Nacho Monreal (£450,000, Real Sociedad), Carl Jenkinson (Undisclosed, Nottingham Forest), Henrik Mkhitaryan (Loan, Roma), Mohamed Elneny (Loan, Besiktas), Eddie Nketiah (Loan, Leeds United), Aaron Ramsey (Free, Juventus), Stephan Lichsteiner (Free, Augsburg), Danny Welbeck (Free, Watford)
The start of the summer transfer window brought a feeling of trepidation. Arsenal supporters appeared more animated than usual about how the club was being run and the direction they were headed. There were whispers that the club only had £40m to spend on players, Aaron Ramsey was leaving the club on a free transfer, and with the departure of Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat, it appeared that the post-Arsene Wenger plan was failing after a year.
On paper, it looks to have been quite the opposite. Head of Football, Raul Sanllehi appears to have brought a slight hint of optimism (as much as one can provide to an Arsenal supporter) to the Emirates.
They appear to have addressed the problematic area of left back. Kieran Tierney from Celtic will be a permanent fixture in the side after regaining fitness. Arsenal also beat a host of top European clubs to the signature from Nicolas Pepe from Lille for £72m albeit in instalments. So much for £40m, eh?
Net spend is quite popular amongst Arsenal fans. It’s only fair to include that Alex Iwobi joined Everton which probably helped top up the kitty. Laurent Koscielny's 9 years with the Gunners ended on a sour note, leaving for Bordeaux after a fall out with the clubs hierarchy.
Whilst Arsenal have invested reasonably heavily this summer there has been an influx of players coming into the first team from their academy. Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka have all featured so far.
How Have Arsenal Started the Season?
3rd and a point behind Manchester City, which isn’t too bad is it?
Yes, Liverpool are 9 points ahead of them in 1st. And no one is considering Arsenal to be challenging for the title, but what with Manchester United being in the situation they’re in at the moment, Chelsea undergoing ‘Project Youth’ and the ongoing uncertainty around Mauricio Pochettino and half the Tottenham Hotspur squad. It looks like Arsenal could make a b-line to return to finish in the Champions League places.
Despite all this, they haven’t really put in a convincing performance in the league so far (although, there have been some strong performances in the Europa League).
August brought narrow wins over Newcastle and Burnley, only to be beaten 3-1 at Anfield due to some awful defensive decisions from David Luiz. September saw them come back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at home to their rivals Tottenham; they were 2-0 up at half time at Vicarage Road only for Watford to come back and draw 2-2 in their next fixture.
They showed a good team spirit coming back to beat Aston Villa 3-2, playing over half of that fixture with ten men. The end of September saw them draw 1-1 at Old Trafford, a game they really should have done more in due to the current ineptitude of Manchester United, before they beat a 1-0 win over Bournemouth before the international break.
So whilst the table doesn’t lie, we are still waiting for a dominant Arsenal performance in the league; question marks still remain over their ability to get results against the ‘Top 6’ away from home.
On Dean Henderson's call up to the England squad:
"...even though some people might not think it, I am a huge supporter of his. He'll probably have some stories to tell, and some stories about how good he's been."
On the Blades' home form:
"...all the performances so far at home have been really good. We've been competitive in all the home games, we have to add the goals obviously, the final bit that picks us points up."
"...we'll give them as much time as possible, we'll give them time, they are working extremely hard to prove their fitness."
On the planing over the international break:
"...we've analysed our first eight games and there are certain things we can do better, I don't think there's been an awful lot wrong with performances. Obviously, at the top end of the pitch, we need to be more clinical, we've not got big issues with the shape."
On 'taking off the shackles':
"We've not got big issues with the shape.......I certainly don't agree with taking the shackles off."
On the Blades:
“They are playing well with a lot of players who have come from the Championship. They are a tough team and with their supporters they will push us very hard but we are ready. We want to give them a good 90 minutes.”
On squad rotation:
“Every player is prepared to play with a big performance. When we were looking at our squad, we wanted to have two players for each position. The Premier League is our most important competition and Monday will be a tough challenge to stay in third position.”
Opposition Style of Play
Unai Emery is a tactically flexible coach who usually favours a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, this is the system he played for most of his time in Spain and whilst managing PSG. For most of last season, however, Emery deployed a 3-4-1-2 system, due to the players he had at his disposal. It makes sense to devise a system that gets Lacazette and Aubameyang in the same team in their favoured positions. Since the start of the current season, Emery has referred to type. Playing a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. Aubameyang has played as a centre forward whilst Lacazette has been out injured.
Once fit, you would assume that Aubameyang will go out on to the left, where he has played when Emery has deployed both of them in a 4-3-3.
His teams favour a high press and look to counter quickly, but Emery is often willing to adapt to combat his opponent's strengths. He is willing to change things quickly if things aren’t going right, or if he sees an area of the pitch where a numerical or positional advantage can be gained. Sometimes that will be issuing instructions to his players from the touchline, or introducing a substitute in the early ages of the second half.
There’s always a possibility that Arsenal revert to a back 3 for this fixture, especially if Emery thinks there’s an area of Sheffield United’s system that they can exploit.
2-1 to United. Can imagine us really enjoying Monday nights at Bramall Lane on Sky.
Sheffield United to win and BTTS at 11/2 (Bet365); Sheffield United to win +1 Handicap at 4/5 (Bet365)