Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Fleck leveller as Sheffield United hold Arsenal at Emirates stadium

Posted on 18 January 2020 by Tusdiq Din

Arsenal 1 Sheffield United 1

What must Arsenal do to get a win having taken the lead ? Gabriel Martinelli scored the Gunners first half opener at the Emirates stadium, but  Sheffield United’s never say die attitude saw them come back for a deserved leveller seven minutes from time through John Fleck for a share of the spoils. The Blades have now taken four points off the Gunners and sit three places above them in the Premier League table, four points better off too. Mikel Arteta has urged his players to step up their fitness and they have come out flying in recent games against Chelsea and Manchester United. However Arteta has seen a return of just one Premier League win in the five matches since his first game in charge at Bournemouth on Boxing Day.

Shorn of the services of top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang following his straight red card at Crystal Palace last weekend, Arteta entrusted Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil, Nicolas Pepe and Martinelli in attack. But it was Lys Mousset who had two early headers which alerted the Gunners to their visitors intentions, with left back Enda Stevens often finding himself as a winger, giving Ainsley Maitland-Niles much food for thought. Arsenal’s makeshift defence with Maitland-Niles and Bukayo Saka filling in with David Luiz and the vulnerable Shkodran Mustafi had to be alert to the luminous lime green shirted Blades who started as if they were the home side. Luiz had to bail out Saka twice early on as Ozil seemed to be in an indifferent attacking mode, although he does now track back a lot more than he used to.

Embed from Getty Images

Martinelli (R) scored his second Premier League goal of the season against United

Midway through the first half, Arsenal threatened Dean Henderson’s goal. Pepe did well to hold off his marker to put in Martinelli, but the Brazilian struck his effort wide. Lucas Torreira was in the wars with a bloodied nose following a stray elbow from Fleck.Moments earlier his 35 yard drive was gathered by Henderson who was always behind the ball.

When Lacazette and Ozil combined, the Germany playmaker found Saka wide on the left. The 18 year old’s cross looped over the attentions of Henderson and there was Martinelli to steer home the opener and his second Premier League goal of the season.

1-0 to the Arsenal at the break, and Arteta would have had an easier half time team talk than his counterpart Chris Wilder. The Blades were up for the fight any way they could, although George Baldock was fortunate not to see yellow following an elbow to Saka’s face. Seconds later, the Blades defender did receive a yellow card from Mike Dean officiating in his 500th game for a foul on the same player. Dean wasn’t moved however when the driving Pepe was brought to a halt in the box. A VAR check showed he might have gotten that wrong, but the decision was no penalty.

Embed from Getty Images

John Fleck (R) celebrates his second half leveller at Emirates stadium

Granit Xhaka had cleared off his line as United kept on pressing for the leveller and deep into the second half the visitors struck. Substitute Callum Robinson’s cross wasn’t dealt with effectively by Maitland-Niles, the ball fell to Fleck who, surrounded by red shirted defenders, still managed to hit into the ground and beyond Leno to make it 1-1 after 83 minutes.

Arsenal have now dropped 13 points from winning positions as Arteta tries to get a grip on the enormity of the task he has inherited.

“I don’t know what was done before. I think they tried to do the best possible thing. I inherited a tean that was in a difficult situation and we’re tryting to improve it as much as possible. I don’t know. In the second half, Sheffield United didn’t generate any efforts on goal. It’s just one long ball, a second ball and then someone put it in the top bin from an incredible angle. It’s difficult to control it,” said Arteta.

Under Wilder, the Blades might have come into the Premier League as novices, but results like this suggest that they will more than just survive in the top flight.

Embed from Getty Images

Arteta has overseen just one Premier League win since his arrival in December

“There was a lot of apprehension coming into the division, not a lot of experience in the group. We have a group who challenge each other and want to attack every game in every division. They have shown that attitude for a long time. We haven’t been unbelievably backed financially.

“It’s a really good story, ours – the players and where they have come from. We have to turn that really good story into a fantastic one by keeping the hammer down,” said Wilder.

Arsenal next travel to Stamford Bridge for the cross capital derby against Chelsea on Tuesday, while the Blades host reigning Premier League champions Manchester City on the same night.