Sheffield United 1-0 Arsenal: The story of The Blades' most eye-catching result of the season so far

In a sense, this was the archetypal battle between north and south. Upstarts from Yorkshire versus London's club of the establishment

Monday, 21st October 2019, 10:29 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd October 2019, 12:08 am
Lys Mousett celebrates scoring the goal which helped Sheffield United to victory over Arsenal.

It is the type of occasion which usually brings out the best in Sheffield United, who have deliberately positioned themselves as a team for those tired of the Premier League's hype, spin and polished PR machine since being promoted to the top-flight six months ago.

So it was no surprise to see them inflict only a second defeat of the season on an Arsenal side which, despite remaining fifth in the table, looked vulnerable against opponents who were still playing third tier football only two years ago.

Lys Mousset, an enigmatic young striker from Montivilliers in northern France, scored the goal which decided last night's contest midway through the first-half; his second since arriving at Bramall Lane three months ago.

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Lys Mousett pokes home to put Sheffield United ahead against Arsenal. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

But this, as Chris Wilder reminded afterwards, could be attributed to the team as a whole rather than one individual.

"We got the balance right," United's manager said, "Between attack and defence. We can't just open up against the quality they've got. But we did exactly what we had to at the right moments."

"We created more chances than them," Arsenal's Unai Emery insisted. "But we did not score, which is obvious."

Although Mousset produced the decisive touch, others also made significant contributions to a result which lifted United to ninth.

Enda Stevens and George Baldock unsettled Arsenal with their industry. Jack O'Connell was always searching for an opportunity to surge forward and join his fellow defenders in attack.

John Fleck, meanwhile, brought technique and tenacity to United's midfield.

The visitors had plenty of the former. But, playing up to their caricature for being flaky on their travels, precious little of the latter.

It was David McGoldrick, however, who made the biggest difference.

The Republic of Ireland international's finishing might often leave much to be desired. But his movement and imagination - coupled with ability to bring the pictures he conjures in his head to life - changes the entire dynamic of United's play.

His presence, and willingness to take up positions others might shun, carved openings for others.

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It was Arsenal who were ponderous and predictable until, as the final whistle beckoned, they finally began to apply some prolonged pressure.

Even then, United appeared to simply want it more; flinging themselves into challenges and the path of the ball to protect the lead Mousset had given them.

If there was an illustration of the difference in resources between those competing at the top end of the division and those attempting to establish a foothold in it, it was the sight of Alexandre Lacazette named among the Arsenal substitutes despite recovering from injury.

The France international cost nearly £50m - more than double United's record transfer signing - when he swapped Lyon for London two years ago.

But with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also at his disposal, Emery resisted the temptation to hand Lacazette an immediate recall.

It is a luxury Wilder would loved to have enjoyed as he searched for ways to improve his squad's returns in front of goal.

But sometimes too much choice can cloud a manager's thinking. It is doubtful whether Lacazette would have missed the chance Nicolas Pepe passed-up before Mousset scored for the second time since leaving AFC Bournemouth during the close season.

It was the 23-year-old's first start in the competition since February, when he was also on target against Emery's men.

One area where United will never be found wanting is the passion of their following.

With Wilder issuing a call-to-arms beforehand, describing the home support as one of the most powerful weapons in his squad's armoury, it was no surprise to see United set off like a steam train in order to crank-up the volumes levels.

An almost primeval roar reverberated around the stadium when Fleck and Stevens combined to test Arsenal's resolve during the early exchanges.

McGoldrick, restored to the starting eleven after returning to fitness, nearly profited from a textbook piece of David Luiz indecision following another promising attack.

But it was Arsenal's apparent obsession with over-elaboration which was United's greatest source of encouragement.

Twice, they placed themselves under pressure by refusing to go long from routine set-pieces. Then, after Luiz swept a pas sin his direction, Sokratis carelessly miscontrolled and gifted United a throw-in within easy reach of his own box.

Mike Dean's concentration was also called into question when he cautioned John Fleck for cleanly winning the ball during a challenge with Aubameyang.

Moments later, as United surged forward through Arsenal's midfield, the referee correctly waved play on after spotting an Arsenal player deliberately pull Chris Basham's jersey.

But, much to the bemusement of Fleck and those on the United bench, Dean refused to issue a yellow card when the move broke down.

Wilder, fidgeting furiously on the touchline, turned to face the crowd in a deliberately theatrical display of disgust.

That turned to delight when Mousset fired United ahead in the 30th minute, turning home from close range after Jack O'Connell headed Oliver Norwood's corner back across goal.

Although Dean Henderson made a fine save to deny Granit Xhaka just before the interval, Arsenal struggled to drag United's rearguard out of position until Lacazette's introduction midway through the second period.

Indeed, until he entered the fray, it was United who continued to create the more promising openings; Fleck twice going close with angled drives.

Sheffield United: Henderson, Baldock, Stevens, Fleck, O'Connell, Basham, Lundstram, Egan, Norwood (McBurnie 85), McGoldrick (L Freeman 78), Mousset (Sharp 56). Not used: Moore, Robinson, Jagielka, Besic.

Arsenal: Leno, Sokratis, Aubameyang, Pepe (Martinelli 78), Chambers, Luiz, Willock (Ceballos 46), Guendouzi, Kolasinac, Xhaka (Lacazette 69), Saka. Not used: Martinez, Tierney, Torreira, Holding.

Referee: Mick Dean:

Attendance: 30, 775.

Highlight: Lys Mousset scored the goal which ensured Sheffield United's performance produced the three points it deserved. Oliver Norwood swept a corner into Arsenal's penalty area and, when Jack O'Connell headed the ball back across the six yard box, the French centre-forward was on hand to turn the ball home from close range and justify his presence in the starting eleven to boot.