Sheffield United will battle Arsenal - and the history books - at the Emirates Stadium
As Chris Wilder’s side prepare to face Arsenal at The Emirates Stadium, The Star’s Sheffield United writer James Shield analyses the facts, figures and the form-books surrounding this Premier League fixture.
The Probable Teams: Arsenal - Leno, Luiz, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Bellerin, Pepe, Guendouzi, Ozil, Martinelli, Xhaka, Lacazette. Sheffield United - Henderson, Basham, Egan, O’Connell, Stevens, Baldock, Norwood, Fleck, Lundstram, McGoldrick, McBurnie.
The Referee: Mike Dean, aged 51, will take charge of United’s meeting with Mikel Arteta’s side. Ian Hussin and Dan Robathan are scheduled to be his assistants while Martin Atkinson, supported by Sian Massey-Ellis, perform VAR duties at Stockley Park. Lee Mason has been appointed as the fourth official. Dean averages 4.55 cautions per game so far this term, with eight of those coming when he oversaw the corresponding fixture at Bramall Lane in October. Dean Henderson, Jack O’Connell, John Fleck and David McGoldrick were all booked for United while Calum Chambers, now injured, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Sead Kolasinac and Bukayo Saka were the visiting players to receive yellow cards. Dean has refereed Arsenal once since then, when they beat West Ham at the London Stadium.
The Previous Meeting: Despite returning a possession figure of only 31 per cent, United prevailed 1-0 when Arsenal travelled to South Yorkshire three months ago. Lys Mousset scored the only goal of the contest midway through the first-half, converting after finding himself unmarked inside the penalty area. Earlier, Nicolas Pepe, the visitors’ £72m signing, had fluffed a glorious opportunity while Dean Henderson produced an excellent save to deny Granit Xhaka an equaliser. Unai Emery, who was sacked as Arsenal manager towards the end of last year, complained his team had also been denied a clear cut penalty by VAR. Wilder, meanwhile, felt United deserved their win, saying: “I thought we got the balance right. We knew we had to put in a big performance to get a big result.”
The History Book: United last beat Arsenal away from home in August 1971, and have drawn only four of their 17 visits to north London since that 1-0 victory. They did, however, win the first ever contest between these two clubs; knocking the hosts out of the FA Cup in 1903. That match took place at the Manor Ground, in Plumstead, before Arsenal’s move across the river Thames. The site is now home to an industrial estate. In total, United have won 40 of their previous meetings, compared to Arsenal’s total of 48.
The Form Guide: United enter this game on the back of a 1-0 win over West Ham; a result secured by Oli McBurnie’s fourth goal of the season. Five days earlier, they had also beaten AFC Fylde in the FA Cup third round. Those victories came following back to back defeats at both Manchester City and Liverpool. The loss to Pep Guardiola’s side was United’s first away from home since last January. Arsenal have won two and drawn two of their five outings under Arteta, whose only defeat since taking charge came at the hands of London rivals Chelsea. They were held 1-1 by Crystal Palace last weekend, with centre-forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang being sent-off at Selhurst Park. He will miss United’s visit due to suspension.
The Key Players: Gabriel Martinelli made his first appearance under Arteta during Arsenal’s FA Cup win over Leeds earlier this month, impressing with his energy and application. Those were qualities Arsenal lacked when they faced United earlier this season, and the 18-year-old Brazilian, who moved to London from Ituano last summer, will be a popular choice among the home supporters if he is selected against Wilder’s side. Although Mousset scored the only goal of the game against Arsenal at Bramall Lane, John Fleck was United’s most effective performer that night and the Scot has been one of their most consistent players since then too.