Sheffield United’s French striker Lys Mousset (C) scores the opening goal past Arsenal’s German goalkeeper Bernd Leno (R) during the English Premier League football match between Sheffield United and Arsenal at Bramall Lane in Sheffield, northern England on October 21, 2019.
Bramall Lane shook and Arsenal were rattled and then rolled over as Sheffield United’s French striker Lys Mousset first-half goal was enough to claim all three points.
Arsenal knew what to expect, they knew what was coming from Sheffield United but they ultimately could not cope with it on a Monday night in Yorkshire as they slumped to the kind of familiar defeat that has their fans despairing at whether they really are making progress.
This was a famous victory for Chris Wilder’s side on their return to the Premier League as they moved into the top half of the table and deservedly so. Nothing should detract from that as they showed the strength, the desire and the heart to overcome a far better-resourced team with Champions League ambitions.
They are also such a committed, attractive side to watch with their bold tactics and positivity. For Arsenal, though, this will lead to more soul-searching and a questioning of whether some of their players share the same qualities as their opponents: namely that desire. Arsenal will argue that decisions went against them but this was not good enough.
At the earning of Sheffield United’s first corner Unai Emery shook his fist at his team, imploring them to stay strong. It proved prophetic. It proved to be in vain. In fact the home side won a succession of corners and, finally, just before the half-hour mark they made one of them count. And Arsenal were far from strong as the ball from Ollie Norwood was allowed to reach Jack O’Connell unmarked and beyond the far post and he simply headed it back across goal for Lys Mousset to turn into the net from close-range.
It was Mousset’s first start and yet again Arsenal had been undone at a set-piece and it fired up the atmosphere even further. The Sheffield United fans were up for this; they scented fragility around Arsenal and the visitors were rattled.
Soon after and there were two penalty controversies. Firstly George Baldock appeared to be fouled by Sead Kolasinac but play was waved on by referee Mike Dean. Then Arsenal broke and claimed that Bukayo Saka was impeded by John Egan when it was clear the young winger had, unfortunately, dived. He was booked. As Arsenal raged Dean ran over to the touchline to also caution first-team coach Freddie Ljungberg who had led the protests.
Before that there had been yet more controversy – and a poor, poor miss by Nicolas Pepe. Arsenal won a corner and Sokratis had his shirt pulled by Egan. The Arsenal defender threw his arms in the air, for effect, as he was challenged and neither Dean nor the VAR felt moved presumably deeming he had over-exaggerated. But Egan was fortunate.