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Arsenal Survive Late Fightback As Sheff Utd Lose Again

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Nicolas Pepe’s goal came 190 seconds after Bukayo Saka’s opener

Arsenal scored two quick-fire team goals to extend Sheffield United’s point-less start to the Premier League season – although the Blades did manage their first goal.

The Gunners did not really get going until the 60th minute when Bukayo Saka celebrated his first England call-up with a header from Hector Bellerin’s cross.

Three minutes later they doubled their lead with Nicolas Pepe’s good run and finish into the bottom corner – finishing off a move with 19 passes.

They looked completely in control until David McGoldrick curled home the Blades’ first league goal of the season.

But it was not enough to affect the outcome and United have now lost seven consecutive top-flight games for the first time since 1975.

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal move onto six points from three games, having lost 3-1 to champions Liverpool last Monday.

 

Gunners get the job done

It was far from Arsenal’s best performance of the season – but they made it four wins from four games in all competitions, against teams other than Liverpool.

They could have been down to 10 men in the first half when David Luiz pulled back Oliver Burke as the Scot chased onto a poor back-pass, with Bernd Leno coming out of his box to clear, but the referee and the VAR team did not deem any punishment necessary.

It took 28 minutes for the game’s first attempt as Eddie Nketiah flicked a header towards goal. That was the longest wait for a shot in any Premier League game in 2020.

The Gunners had the better chances in the first half but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang forced a good diving save from Aaron Ramsdale and then hit an acrobatic volley at the goalkeeper.

Sheffield United had a red card let-off of their own as Sander Berge was only booked for a lunging tackle on Aubameyang, who was hurt but able to carry on.

Arsenal’s two strikes were worth the wait, the result of fine passing moves.

Aubameyang lifted a pass over the top to Bellerin, whose clipped cross was headed into the top corner by Saka at the far post.

And then substitute Pepe played a one-two with Bellerin before running at the Blades defence and slotting home via the base of the post.

Their main disappointment will have been losing a clean sheet and causing a few tense moments late on when the game looked safe.

Sheffield United’s worrying form continues

The Blades’ European dream was finished by three consecutive defeats at the end of last season – and that losing run has carried over into this campaign.

After failing to score in their opening three league games for the first time in their history, Chris Wilder spent a club-record £23.5m on Liverpool striker Rhian Brewster – although he was not registered in time to make his debut at Emirates Stadium.

They ended the game with six shots, as many as Arsenal, but few of them were clear chances.

McGoldrick’s high and wide effort was their only shot in the first half, but the Republic of Ireland striker did eventually hit the target with a fine 20-yard effort from George Baldock’s pass.

The 32-year-old has only scored three Premier League goals in his career, all against the big six – having netted twice against Chelsea last season.

But they would not have deserved an equaliser and begin a top-flight season with four defeats for the first time since 1966.

Will Wilder be involved in the transfer market on deadline day on Monday? He may have to be if they are to avoid second-season syndrome.

Match stats – Wilder’s worst run since Halifax in 2004

  • Arsenal have won nine of their past 11 home Premier League matches (D2) since a 2-1 defeat by Chelsea in Arteta’s first home game in charge in December.
  • Sheffield United have lost seven consecutive league matches for only the second time in their history, with their other seven-game losing run coming between August and September 1975.
  • Arsenal have won nine of their past 11 home league matches against Sheffield United (D2) since a 1-0 defeat in August 1971.
  • Pepe’s goal for Arsenal came after a build-up of 19 passes, the most before a Premier League goal this season; indeed, of the nine goals scored this season with 10 or more passes in the build-up, four have been scored by the Gunners.
  • Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has lost seven consecutive league matches as a manager for the first time since a run of 10 defeats in a row as Halifax Town manager between February and April 2004.
  • Only Liverpool (34) have won more home Premier League points than Arsenal (29) since Arteta’s first home game in charge last December.
  • This was Burke’s 18th Premier League appearance, with the Sheffield United player yet to end on the winning side (D3 L15). Burke has played more games in the Premier League without winning than any other player in the history of the competition.
  • Sheffield United scored their first Premier League goal of the season, with McGoldrick’s goal their 31st attempt of the campaign.

What’s next?

Arsenal visit Manchester City in the league next Saturday (17:30 BST), while Sheffield United host fellow strugglers Fulham at 15:00 that day.

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