We’re back on home soil, let’s make it count.
Welcoming a side Arsenal enjoyed mixed success against last season, Sheffield United, the circumstances of all the three meetings last season have changed for Sunday’s clash.
Barring defeat to Liverpool at Anfield – doesn’t really count in the Premier League, does it? – it’s been a very positive start to the campaign for Mikel Arteta’s side, winning twice in the top-flight and twice in the Carabao Cup, enough to reach the quarter-final stage.
The visiting side come into this game off the back of a quite remarkable campaign in 2019/20, punching well above their weight on their return to the top tier with an admirable ninth place finish, just two points shy of Arsenal.
Last season’s reverse affair ended in a ridiculously predictable 1-1 draw, but dropping points at home to sides who Arsenal really should be beating can’t happen again this season. Not if a top four berth is going to be a genuine possibility.
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Confidence is high in the camp heading into this one, although everybody associated with the club will be praying that the squad will be given a welcome boost with one or two fresh faces walking through the Emirates doors *cough Aouar cough*.
Ahead of Sunday’s afternoon kick off, here’s your preview of the visit of the Blades.
How to Watch on TV
When Is Kick Off? Sunday 4th October
What Time Is Kick Off? 14:00 (BST)
Where Is it Played? Emirates Stadium
TV Channel/Live Stream? fuboTV (US)
Referee? Lee Mason
Thursday’s nights Carabao Cup penalty shootout victory over Liverpool saw Arsenal welcome back Cedric Soares from injury, a player who’d yet to make a single appearance this season with a calf strain.
Bukayo Saka was forced off before full-time with cramp, but that isn’t expected to cause any unwelcome distress for the recently called-up England international, who will shake off that strain before Sunday’s clash.
Sokratis is also back in full training following his own injury issues, but given he is one of the players who could leave this summer (and isn’t very good) his involvement is unlikely. Lucas Torreira also won’t feature – he hadn’t this season anyway – as he nears a move to Atletico Madrid on a season-long loan deal.
Gabriel Magalhaes was superb at Anfield, thus could return to the starting lineup at the Emirates.
For the visitors, they will make the trip south with a shiny new player in their ranks. A club-record deal to sign Liverpool’s Rhian Brewster was completed on Friday evening, with it highly possible he could be thrust into action immediately for Sunday.
Defender Jack O’Connell has undergone surgery and will likely be out for the entirety of the season, but the Blades do welcome back John Egan, who was sent off in the defeat to Aston Villa, after he served his two-game ban.
Arsenal: Leno; Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney; Bellerin, Elneny, Ceballos, Maitland-Niles; Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang
Sheffield United: Ramsdale; Basham, Egan, Robinson; Baldock, Lundstram, Berge, Norwood, Stevens; McGoldrick, Brewster
Following on from Monday’s defeat at Anfield, it was back to winning ways for Arsenal, albeit in a penalty shootout. The Gunners weren’t bad on Thursday, but they weren’t overly great either. It was somewhere in between, but a solid(ish) display nonetheless.
Progression through to the Carabao Cup quarter-finals is all that matters, and it’s always sweeter when you beat the Premier League champions in doing so.
Monday was the only blip in an otherwise decent start to the season, but our most recent game on home soil wasn’t one for the scrapbook. Arsenal toiled to victory over a West Ham side who deserved at least a point, so whether it will be as grueling to watch on Sunday remains to be seen.
Regarding the Blades, if this was last season we’d be worried to play them. However, this time around they ain’t doing so great. Losing all of their three Premier League encounters this season, most worryingly of all, they’re yet to score a single goal.
Their top scorer last season managed a measly six goals in all competitions, but they made up for that lack of firepower with a well-drilled defensive unit off the ball. Now, we play them when they’ve conceded four goals and score none. They’ll be hoping Brewster solves the latter issue.
It should, really, be positive thinking coming into this one.
Here is how each side has fared in their last five fixtures.
Liverpool 0(4)-0(5) Arsenal (01/10)
Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal (28/09)
Arsenal 2-1 West Ham (19/09)
Fulham 0-3 Arsenal (12/09)
Arsenal 1(5)-1(4) Liverpool (29/08)
Sheffield United 0-1 Leeds (27/09)
Aston Villa 1-0 Sheffield United (21/09)
Burnley 1(5)-1(4) Sheffield United (17/09)
Sheffield United 0-2 Wolves (14/09)
Sheffield United 2-2 Preston (04/09)
Y’know when everything points so clearly towards one outcome, that it just has to end up as the complete opposite? Yeah, that’s kind of the way I’m feeling for Sunday.
Perhaps not the complete opposite, but a confident Arsenal team hosting a side who’ve lost all three league matches this season without scoring just screams ‘draw’ to me. Last season, this fixture was the most blatant, nailed on 1-1 I’ve ever seen. The Blades, an impressive force on the road, at draw specialists Arsenal. It couldn’t have been anything else.
Which I reckon could be the scoreline again on this occasion.
It’ll be a case of shutting up shop for the visitors, who before kick-off would be happy to leave with a point. Not a slight on them, but they’re in bad form and leaving north London with a draw would be a step in the right direction.
Seeing how frustrated Arsenal can get when faced with a low block at home, our lack of flair in that department becomes painfully clear *COUGH AOUAR COUGH* thus, I can’t see us scoring more than one.
If the visitors opt for a front two of Oliver Burke and Rhian Brewster they’ll have pace to burn on the break, while they’ve got a few big lads in their side who are dangerous from corners.
Getting an early goal could change the entire complexion of the game, but if we don’t score early, I can see this one ending honours even.
Prediction: Arsenal 1-1 Sheffield United