Arsenal entertain high-flying Sheffield United at the Emirates Stadium this weekend, looking to get back in contention for a Europa League spot.
The Gunners have been disappointing for large portions of this season, barely scraping into the top half of the table after mustering just 28 points from their opening 21 games.
Despite their inconsistencies, only four points separate Arsenal from sixth-placed Sheffield United, who are enjoying a fantastic first season back in the top flight.
Chris Wilder’s side have earned plenty of plaudits for their defensive organisation this season, and are riding high in a Europa League qualification spot, despite pre-season predictions placing the Blades among the favourites to be relegated.
Here, 90min previews their clash in north London.
Where to Watch
|When Is Kick Off?||Saturday 18th January|
|What Time Is Kick Off?||15:00 (GMT)|
|Where Is it Played?||Emirates Stadium|
|TV Channel/Live Stream?||Gillette Soccer Saturday/BT Sport Score|
Arsenal will be without captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, as he starts a three-match ban following his red card at Crystal Palace last weekend.
The Gabonese international was dismissed for a dangerously wild lunge on Max Meyer, with the Gunners’ subsequent appeal against his suspension rejected by the FA’s appeals committee.
Sead Kolasinac will also be absent, with a thigh strain continuing to rule him out of action. Kieran Tierney is not yet fit, so Bukayo Saka may again fill in at left back.
For the visitors, Chris Wilder has no fresh injury concerns to worry about, though he may opt to rotate his strike force.
David McGoldrick is still without a goal this season, despite his good work off the ball, so Lys Mousset may be brought back in. Wilder, however, prefers to keep things simple, so don’t be surprised if the Irishman keeps his place.
|Arsenal||Leno; Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Luiz, Saka; Guendouzi, Xhaka, Pepe; Ozil Martinelli, Lacazette.|
|Sheffield United||Henderson; Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens; McBurnie, McGoldrick.|
Head to Head Record
These two sides have met 114 times, with Arsenal shading the head-to-head record between the pair. The Gunners have emerged victorious on 48 occasions, whereas Sheffield United have come out on top 40 times
The hosts have won three out of the last five meetings between the two, but did slip to a 1-0 defeat at Bramall Lane earlier this season – Mousset grabbing the only goal of the game from close range.
Arsenal have struggled for consistency this season, but have shown some promising improvements under Arteta. A comfortable win at home to Manchester United was their best performance under him to date, but a timid display against Leeds in the FA Cup demonstrates that work still needs to be done.
Draws against Crystal Palace and Bournemouth are further evidence of Arsenal’s inability to kill teams off, despite their lack of form.
Sheffield United have stuttered of late, suffering back-to-back defeats against Liverpool and Manchester City recently. Granted, the Blades weren’t expected to win, but the defeats did end their lengthy unbeaten run away from home.
However, wins against AFC Fylde in the FA Cup and West Ham have seen Wilder’s side get back on track.
Here’s how each team has fared in their last five games.
|Crystal Palace 1-1 Arsenal (11/1)||Sheffield United 1-0 West Ham (10/1)|
|Arsenal 1-0 Leeds (6/1)||Sheffield United 2-1 Fylde (5/1)|
|Arsenal 2-0 Manchester United (1/1)||Liverpool 2-0 Sheffield United (2/1)|
|Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea (29/12)||Manchester City 2-0 Sheffield United (29/12)|
|Bournemouth 1-1 Arsenal (26/12)||Sheffield United 1-1 Watford (26/12)|
Arsenal are beginning to show more resilience at the back, and will be confident of stringing positive results together as Arteta continues to impress his philosophy upon his players.
But Sheffield United are tricky customers on the road, proving time and time again that they can soak up and absorb pressure. Aubameyang’s absence could be crucial, with a share of the spoils a likely outcome.
Prediction: Arsenal 1-1 Sheffield United