Although Mikel Arteta has reinvigorated Arsenal, he can’t turn sow’s ears into silk purses. This job he has inherited is likely to tax all his tactical acumen to the last drop.
Against Sheffield United, Arsenal were decidedly average. Injuries and illnesses meant the much-maligned Mustafi was drafted into a makeshift defence. An early clanger from the German did not auger well, but he improved.
Meanwhile, at left back, Saka excelled going forward, occasionally putting the
Blades on the back foot.
Another youngster, Martinelli, in for the suspended Aubameyang, added the finishing touch to Saka cross to send Arsenal in at the break 1-0 up.
It was a precarious lead, however, and when referee Mike Dean and VAR failed to see a blatant trip in the penalty area on the tricky Pepe, the writing was on the wall: a late equaliser would be conceded.
To all intents and purposes, Arsenal are still sticking to the script that got them into this mid-table mess. The insistence on playing the ball out from the back is marginally more successful under Arteta, but possession is being risked or surrendered in dangerous areas, so it’s beginning to look like an accident is waiting to happen. I’m never pleased from a defensive perspective to see a keeper dribbling past opponents in his own penalty area, so Leno had better watch out!
Overall, a draw was a fair result, given the lack of penetration from both teams.
Although Chelsea lost their last game, they will be more formidable opponents than the Blades, so Arsenal will need to be more on their game than they were on this occasion if they aim to win points. Unfortunately, you’d have to say it’s an unlikely prospect, but only a fool would bet against Arteta, who’s made such an encouraging start.