Arsenal Analysed: How we put five past Sheff Utd

Fabio Vieira celebrates scoring against Sheffield United

We racked up a convincing victory against Sheffield United on Saturday, clinching a 5-0 win that sent all inside Emirates Stadium home happy and complete a fine week's work after also beating Sevilla.

Adrian Clarke has rewatched the encounter and delved into the stats to find out why we were so dominant:

Marvellous movement

For the first 28 minutes of this clash our off-the-ball running was not as bright as it could have been, but following a pause to treat a Gabriel Martinelli injury, Mikel Arteta delivered fresh instructions to the players and suddenly our movement became significantly more dynamic and deliberately chaotic.

That led to Ben White once again being at the heart of a crucial goal, when his line-breaking pass to Kai Havertz sprung an attack, but then, just as he did against Chelsea the previous week, White also made a telling overlap to drag a defender away from Rice. This bought the England international valuable time and space to pick out Eddie Nketiah with a pinpoint cross. 

Ben White's movement for our opening goal against Sheffield United
Ben White's movement for our opening goal against Sheffield United

From this point onwards, red shirts consistently caused havoc by cleverly mixing up their movement to create doubts in the minds of their markers, and Nketiah was often the key to opening United up with unselfish pieces of running. Here, he moves towards the ball, leaving a lovely area for William Saliba to clip a pass into for Oleksandr Zinchenko who sprints beyond. 

Eddie Nketiah's movement against Sheffield United

This spell, which featured various other examples of smart movement, bamboozled the visitors who dropped deeper, allowing us to get our attacking midfield quartet onto the ball much higher up the pitch. 

A complete shut-out

Scoring five goals will have delighted Arteta, but he will have been just as pleased with the way his team kept Sheffield United at arm’s length. 

Exerting full control, his players showed excellent concentration levels and did not present the visitors with a single chance. Aside from one minor blocked effort and a wayward shot from close to the halfway line, Paul Heckingbottom’s side mustered nothing of menace:

Sheffield United attacking stats v Arsenal:

Expected goals 0.03
Shots 2
Shots on target 0
Last shot 21 mins

Our game management was astute throughout, with no-one taking unnecessary risks that may have allowed the Blades a goalscoring opportunity. This was the first time Arsenal have registered back-to-back Premier League clean sheets at Emirates Stadium since December 2021. 

Immaculate Saliba

This may not have been the stiffest defensive examination he will face this season, but Saliba’s performance still oozed class. Stepping in at the right moment every time Sheffield United were in his vicinity, the France international recovered the ball with consummate ease. 

Regaining possession with a team-high 11 ball recoveries, he regularly cut off potential attacks at source. 

Saliba’s ball recoveries v Sheffield United

William Saliba's ball recoveries against Sheffield United

Saliba’s passing was also exceptional. Taking responsibility for building attacks from the middle, with White and Jakub Kiwior either side, he made a remarkable 127 passes. Accurate with 96 per cent of his distribution, which included a couple of ambitious through-balls, the 22-year-old’s choice-making was top-class. 

Eddie’s unforgettable afternoon

Hat-trick hero Nketiah claimed our first Premier League treble since February 2021 while also becoming the first Englishman since Theo Walcott in 2015 to take home the matchball. 

The England international’s first touch to get past Auston Trusty for the opening goal was sublime, which was ruthlessly dispatched, and ahead of his second it was interesting to see Nketiah approach Emile Smith Rowe to suggest he played a quick free-kick down the side of United’s defence

Switching in a flash from a casual walk to a sprint, the striker caught our opponents on the hop with that smart idea, earning us the corner that led to his next goal. 

Eddie Nketiah's smart run that led to our second goal against Sheffield United

Nketiah’s hat-trick sealing strike from 25 yards - his first Premier League goal from outside the box - was an absolute beauty. Making the difference with his finishing, Nketiah’s stats for the season are now among the best in the division. 

Only seven top-flight stars to have scored at least five goals have done so at a faster rate than his 137 minutes per strike, and the Hale End graduate's three-goal salvo also saw his conversion rate leap to 28 per cent, a figure higher than international teammates Ollie Watkins (19 per cent ) and Jarrod Bowen (27 per cent). 

Subs and set plays shine again

No Premier League side has scored more set-piece goals than Arsenal's six, who added two more to their tally at the weekend. 

For our second of the afternoon Nketiah wrestled his way free from his man-to-man marker inside the box to lash home after a spill from Blades keeper Wes Foderingham, and deep into injury time Takehiro Tomiyasu scored his first-ever goal for the club on his 50th appearance. 

The Japanese defender started by standing next to the keeper, with fellow substitute Mo Elneny providing a deft assist. The Egyptian freed himself from tight marking to get across the near post, and from his flick-on, Tomiyasu controlled the ball before hooking it home. 

Takehiro Tomiyasu scoring against Sheffield United

Second-half replacement Fabio Vieira also got on the scoresheet with his first of the campaign from the penalty spot. Good pressing from Leandro Trossard, another eye-catching sub, helped to create the turnover before the Portuguese midfielder was fouled just inside the box. 

We now lead the way with the most goals and assists contributed from substitutes in Premier League matches, with six of our 10 matches featuring at least one direct goal contribution from a substitute. Arteta is using his squad resources very well indeed. 

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