Report: Arsenal 2-1 Sheffield United

Nicolas Pépé came off the bench to lead Arsenal to victory over Sheffield United in the Premier League.

He had a point to prove after failing to start any league games this season and the game was goalless when the attacker entered the action but he helped the Gunners create a two-goal lead within six minutes. 

He was involved in a flowing passing move that allowed Bukayo Saka to notch his first goal at the Emirates before the Ivorian showcased his talent with A mazy run and precise finish. 

David McGoldrick pulled one back on 83 minutes but Arsenal withstood late pressure to bag all three points. 

Mikel Arteta made six changes from the side that saw off Liverpool in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night. Héctor Bellerín, David Luiz and Kieran Tierney came into a back four while Dani Ceballos returned to midfield.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Willian were also recalled to flank Eddie Nketiah, who almost found himself through on goal in the opening couple of minutes but his first touch let him down. 

At the other end, a sloppy pass from Gabriel Magalhães put Luiz in trouble and he had to pull the shirt of Oli Burke to stop him getting to the ball before Bernd Leno. As the last man he was lucky not be penalised and add to his impressive red card tally for Arsenal. 

The formation is very fluid under Arteta but there was a clear change of system as Mohamed Elneny dropped into the defence to allow Tierney and Bellerín to drive on down the flanks. 

The Gunners enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but struggled to really test the Blades’ defence with a tame Nketiah header the only shot on target on the half-hour mark. A poor clearance from Aaron Ramsdale led to Aubameyang trying his luck from the edge of the area but the goalkeeper managed to get fingertips to it. 

Sander Berge was lucky to stay on the pitch when he dug his studs into Aubameyang’s ankle. If the connection was cleaner then the forward would have more than likely sustained a nasty injury but Berge’s studs-up challenge was only met with a yellow card.

Fortunately for Arsenal Aubameyang was okay to continue and he looked the most likely to open the scoring. After trying his luck with an ambitious overhead kick, the forward was inches away from collecting a clever Ceballos pass that would have put him one-on-one.

There was a clear lack of creativity, which only emphasised the need for a new addition in the transfer market, until Pépé’s introduction shortly before the hour mark, with Nketiah making way and Aubameyang moving centrally.

The Ivorian was involved in the first intricate piece of play the Gunners managed as he found Elneny galloping into space. One-touch passing between the Egyptian, Aubameyang and Bellerín ended with Saka powering home a header to mark his first senior international call-up.

Three minutes later Arsenal doubled their lead but this was all down to Pépé. After a one-two with Bellerín, the club-record signing drove at the Sheffield United box before curling a precise shot into the bottom corner off the post. 

Granit Xhaka replaced Ceballos for the final 10 minutes with Arsenal looking comfortable but David McGoldrick’s curled finish set up a tense finale.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles came on for Saka to tighten things up at the back and helped the Gunners see out the victory.

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