Blade’s can’t handle gunners fire power
Sheffield united 1-2 Arsenal
WEMBLEY WEMBLEY… WE’RE THE FAMOUS ARSENAL AND WE’RE GOING TO WEMBLEY!
Despite this circus of a season, the Gunners kept our only hopes of silverware alive with a less than convincing 1-2 win. Sheffield United were left to rue missed opportunities as The Arsenal march on to the Semis of the FA Cup to face current holders, Manchester City.
Neal Maupay mentioned after the Brighton game that certain Arsenal players lacked “humility”, he without a doubt was not talking about our Scottish wizard Kieran Tierney. The 23 year- old ditched the traditional Gucci or LV boot bag and instead elected to use the Tesco bag that carried his meal deal the previous day.
The sheer brilliance of the Scotsman had me thinking of my Sunday League, F.C Kensington days. Vanilla Nurishment in one hand with my burger and chips in the other, accompanied with my boots in a Tesco bag. That was the ritual before every Sunday league game, you will be surprised to hear we never really did any good.
Enough about me, moving onto the win…
Arteta made 5 changes to the side that beat Southampton the previous game, David Luiz, Maitland- Niles, Kolasinac, Joe Willock and Lacazette, all came back into the team. Sheffield United had a clear game plan from the outset; bombard the Arsenal box all afternoon with corners and throws.
Chris Wilder’s men enjoyed most of the possession in the early stages. The Blade’s almost put a dagger into the hearts of Gunner’s fans, only to have Lundstram’s goal from a corner ruled out for offside in the 8th minute.
Arsenal weathered the South Yorkshire storm as Sheffield United piled on the pressure, being our 4th consecutive away game, it was not surprising.
Nerves were eased in the 25th minute when Arsenal were rewarded with a penalty, following a rash challenge by Basham on the back of Lacazette. I have read a few Arsenal fan’s naming the Frenchman “Twerkazette”, our marquee signing of 2017 splits opinion when it comes to our fans, I think it may be time for his departure in the summer.
£72 million record signing Nicolas Pepe, stepped up for the resulting penalty, expertly slotting the ball to the left of a helpless Dean Henderson. The goalkeeper cut a dejected figure after conceding, Pepe now has 8 goals and 8 assists this term.
Arsenal began to smell blood at Bramall lane and were eager to finish off their pray, Pepe had an exceptional chance to double the lead on the stroke of halftime. The Ivory Coast international was on the receiving end of a brilliant drilled pass across goal by Tierney, following a captivating, free flowing Arsenal move. The Arsenal bench were left bewildered as Pepe flashed his attempt past the post.
Arsenal’s young guns continued to soak up the pressure like a wet sponge for the remainder of the first half, the youngsters showed glimpses of quality on the counterattack, an insight into the future of Arteta’s Arsenal.
Sheffield United applied a much more aggressive approach in the second half, Chris Wilder’s men were relentless in their quest for an equaliser. The aggression shown by the Blades had an impact on controversial figure David Luiz, the Brazilian who picked up a slight knock in the first half, seemed to of exacerbate the injury in the 52nd minute.
Name a side with a worst injury record then ours, I have got all day.
The distribution on show by the two goalkeepers was magnificent, Dean Henderson displayed his talent when the Englishman almost directly scored from a goal kick. The ball caught up in the Yorkshire breeze, slightly brushed over Emiliano Martinez’s crossbar. Amidst the carnage, Chris Wilder could hilariously be heard yelling, “TRY IT AGAIN!”
Were we playing Stoke City in disguise?
Arsenal who were aiming to progress to their 30th FA Cup Semi-Final, had their hearts in their mouths in the 60th minute. Jack Robinson whipped in a delightful cross for a free Chris Basham, only to header the ball wide of a gaping goal.
Basham had the opportunity to rectify the first half penalty he conceded to Arsenal, instead the centre back showed the world why has not scored a single goal this season. The Blade’s defender may struggle to look at his comrades in the changing room following his nightmare afternoon.
Sheffield United deployed a Rory Delap clone in the form of Jack Robinson, his long throws into the Arsenal box caused turmoil for the Gunners all afternoon. The Blade’s constant onslaught was rewarded in the 86th minute, thanks to some, expected, calamitous defending by the Gunners.
Kolasinac failing to deal with a deep throw into the box, smashed the ball directly at an unaware Mustafi. McGoldrick could not believe his luck as the ball rebounded into the air, falling kindly for him to tap in. The Irish striker has scored no Premier League goals this season, Arsenal’s frailties in defence were again laid bare to the football world.
It was squeaky bum time at Bramall lane as the blades came with wave after wave of attack, it seemed inevitable the Gunners were going to lose. Billy Sharpe a cult hero with the Sheffield United fans, would have immortalised himself in Sheffield United folklore if not for a fine save by Martinez in the 89th minute.
Arsenal resembled a deflated boxer in the final round of a boxing match, absorbing blow after blow, the Arsenal knockout that was about to transpire was totally unexpected.
After some nimble footwork by Bukayo Saka, Arsenal were on the break and desperate for a late winner. As Saka drove into space in the middle of the pitch, Pepe and Nketiah were bursting down either side of him. Subsequently, Saka released the ball to Nketiah who placed his pass perfectly to Pepe.
Pepe who was 1on1 with Stevens in the box, found the emerging figure of Ceballos who squeezed the ball past Henderson’s left with an intricate finish. That was only the Spaniard’s second goal for Arsenal, what a time to score it.
Following the soul crushing late winner, Sheffield United have now lost 3 matches in a row, first time to happen to them since December 2017.
Chris Wilder spoke of the atmosphere that was missing from the Blades faithful and why no fans in attendance was a factor. “Second half I was looking to my right and my left when we were building momentum, you can only imagine what it would have been like.”
Arteta was the opposite to his managerial counterpart, overcome with joy and elated with his young guns for reaching the semis for a historic 30th time; “We never gave up when they equalised, they put us under a lot of pressure, the young players are evolving.”
On a side note, a cloud has been hovering above the Emirates regarding Aubameyang’s contract situation. The prolific talisman was ordered to warm up by Arteta in the 81st minute, the Gabonese striker’s eyes were fixated on the Arsenal manager as he warmed up for the remainder of the game without coming on.
Hopefully, there is no rift between the pair, and Arsenal can get these contract negotiations resolved, the Gunners host Norwich next game in the Premier League
WEMBLEY HERE WE COME!!!
Sheffield United: Henderson, Basham, Egan, Robinson, Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens, McBurnie, McGoldrick
Arsenal: Martinez, Mustafi, Luiz, Kolasinac, Maitland- Niles, Xhaka, Willock, Tierney, Pepe, Lacazette, Saka