Pre-Match Report

Preview: Arsenal v Sheffield United

Arsenal v Sheffield United

We look to stretch our unbeaten start to the season into double figures on Saturday when we take on winless Sheffield United at Emirates Stadium.

Bottom of the table Blades have endured a tough start since their promotion from the Championship last term with just one point on the board so far, and the history books show they don’t relish games against us, having won just two of their last 19 when we meet.

Mikel Arteta will be hoping to complete a successful week following our Champions League success against Sevilla on Tuesday, and aim to follow up our 1-0 win against Manchester City in our last home encounter to record successive Premier League clean sheets on our turf for the first time since December 2021.

Blades risk being cut adrift

Sheffield United are dejected after conceding

The Blades’ 2020/21 side are the only team in Premier League history to take as few as one point from their opening 10 games, and the current team now also face that possibility having squandered seven points already thanks to their ability to concede late goals.

Their solitary point came via a 2-2 draw at home to Everton in September, but things could have been so much better. Heckingbottom’s team lost back-to-back games to Nottingham Forest and Manchester City in the 89th and 88th minutes respectively, and were leading 1-0 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the 97th minute before contriving to lose.

That damaging defeat kick-started a run of five straight losses, including an 8-0 walloping at the hands of Newcastle United - a Premier League record for a home defeat - and last weekend’s 2-1 reverse to Manchester United which left them rock bottom of the table, four points adrift of safety.

What the managers say

Arteta: "Looking at the way [Sheff Utd] have played against all the top teams and how much they have suffered to beat them; some of them scored in the 100th minute, some others scoring late goals. They’ve been really tricky games so we expect the same. They are fighting for their lives, like we want to win every single game, and it will be a tricky game.

"Since yesterday, everybody has been on their toes. When they walk in that door, they know what is coming and what to expect. I was very clear with them." - read every word from Mikel's pre-match press conference

Paul Heckingbottom

Heckingbottom: "It's one of the biggest [challenges], if not the biggest. Anyone finishing above [Arsenal] this season wins the league. It's as good as it gets for us. We have to relish it. When you're playing you can't always see these moments as opportunities but they are, you've got to enjoy going to the toughest place and putting in a performance because these are the games that can kickstart people's careers and establish them.

"With and without the ball they're very good. When teams go through times of winning, the thing that differentiates is without the ball. I see them as a hungry team who compete well without the ball. It's a game we are looking forward to and a game we should relish."

Talking tactics

Cameron Archer celebrates scoring for Sheffield United

Adrian Clarke, writing in the official matchday programme: Usually a 3-5-2 side, the Blades only had two fit central defenders last weekend which prompted a switch to 4-4-2, but with frontman Oli McBurnie limping off against Manchester United, I suspect they will tweak to a 4-5-1 with Cameron Archer [above] as the lone striker.

If so, Heckingbottom’s team will sit off and keep a compact shape behind the ball, before releasing their pacy forward with early passes into the channels. Oliver Norwood will also be key - he drops between his central defenders to start moves and is adept at striking accurate long diagonal passes. His devilish set-piece deliveries are not easy to handle, and United also pose a threat from long throws.

With an average of just 38 per cent possession, their focus this season has been on defensive organisation. At Emirates Stadium, the Blades will allow us to dominate possession, and their approach will be direct from any transitions.

Out of possession, they show a great appetite to shut off passing angles, and they have produced 92 interceptions already, with only West Ham United making more. From those turnovers they like to release the dangerous Archer, or fellow new signing Gustavo Hamer, but despite this they haven’t carved out enough chances in open play, scoring just seven times – a tally that includes two set pieces and a penalty kick.

Team news

Gabriel Jesus celebrates scoring against Sevilla

After his goal and assist against Sevilla, Gabriel Jesus was forced off with a muscle injury and will be out for a few weeks. His absence could be a blow given he has had 14 goal involvements in his 16 home league matches since signing for us.

Thomas Partey missed the trip to Spain with a similar problem and will again be sidelined, while Jurrien Timber continues to recover from his ACL surgery.

Sheffield United have been ravaged by injuries this season, which has continued recently. Anel Ahmedhodzic pulled a hamstring in training and will be out for a few weeks, and Oli McBurnie is a doubt with a groin problem sustained against Manchester United last weekend.

Ben Osborn, John Fleck and Anis Ben Slimane returned to the bench for the last match after their layoffs, while George Baldock has been back in training this week and could be in line for a return.

Captain John Egan (foot) and vice-captain Chris Basham (broken leg) are out long-term, as are Tom Davies, Rhys Norrington-Davies (both thigh), Max Lowe (ankle), William Osula (muscle) and Daniel Jebbison (illness).

Facts and stats

William Saliba, Gabriel and Takehiro Tomiyasu celebrate beating Manchester City

We are unbeaten in 18 home meetings with Sheffield United in all competitions since a 1-0 defeat in August 1971.

We are haven’t lost in 36 Premier League home games against promoted sides, with the last coming against Newcastle United in November 2010.

We remain unbeaten in the league so far, with no side keeping more clean sheets heading into this matchweek.

No team have scored more Premier League goals in the final 15 minutes of games this season than us (6), while Sheffield United have conceded the most in this time (8). 

No team have scored an equalising goal in more Premier League games this season than Sheffield United, though the Blades have gone on to lose four of the five games in which they’ve levelled. 

The Blades have failed to score more than a single goal in any of their last 21 games against us in all competitions since a 5-2 loss in September 1991.

Heckingbottom has lost all seven of his Premier League games as a manager against London-based sides by an aggregate scoreline of 17-2.

Match officials

Tim Robinson

A new face will take charge of proceedings on Saturday, with Tim Robinson appointed to this fixture. It won’t be his first game at Emirates Stadium though, having refereed our FA Youth Cup final against Chelsea in 2018.

He was promoted to be a regular top-flight official ahead of this season, but has been called upon to manage the odd game since 2019. He has frequently brandished the yellow card this campaign in the division, averaging over five cautions a game but has yet to reach for a red or point to the penalty spot.

  • Referee: Tim Robinson
  • Assistants: Eddie Smart, Nick Greenhalgh
  • Fourth Official: John Busby
  • VAR: Michael Salisbury
  • Assistant VAR: Nick Hopton

Recent visits from Sheffield United

The Blades haven’t tasted success in our corner of north London since 197, and in their last visit back October 2020 goals Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe extended our unbeaten home run against the Sheffield side to 18 matches as we ran out 2-1 victors.

United grabbed a share of the spoils on their previous visit earlier that year when Fleck cancelled out Gabriel Martinelli’s opener to earn a 1-1 draw, on what had been the first league meeting between the sides in north London since September 2006 when we registered our first Premier League victory at Emirates Stadium.

It isn’t just at our home where United have struggled. They’ve won just two of their 32 Premier League away games against London sides ever, beating Chelsea in 1992 and Crystal Palace in 2020. Since that Palace victory, they’ve lost their last nine capital top-flight matches.

Relive some memorable moments from home matches against the Blades, including one of the most controversial FA Cup ties ever and a Carlos Vela masterclass.

How to watch

Breakdown Live

Saturday sees Nick and Adrian hosting the Breakdown Live from Emirates Stadium, with a host of guests popping by to chat about the game pre-match. Former Gunners Mikael Silvestre, Paul Davis and Chris Whyte will give their thoughts on how proceedings will go, and they'll be joined in the studio by members of Arsenal Japan. 

To mark Black History Month, Dr Clive Nwonka will also chat about our club's relationship with their Black supporters, while writer Dave Seager and Poorly Drawn Arsenal will also be on the show.

Adrian will also look in-depth at Sheffield United's strengths and weaknesses to see how we can try and beat them, and then from 3pm, commentary comes from Dan Roebuck and Nigel Winterburn who will take you through all the action on-field as we aim to maintain our unbeaten start to the season.

You can also find out which broadcasters are showing the game live in your country.

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Fixtures & Results

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