I only managed to watch the whole game this morning and after knowing the result already it was a pleasant surprise to see how relatively well we played. I think a draw is a fair result given the number of shots on goal by both teams, the Blades strong start AND finish, and our lack of finishing touch when it mattered. We are all obviously craving for a few wins in a row but Arteta is building something special and it will take time before we can beat such solid, no-nonsense teams like Sheffield United without needing dollops of luck.
Arsenal are playing much, much better football in all areas of the pitch and once Arteta can get us to the next level, which may not take too long, we will have our Arsenal back.
Leno: 6 – SU are a physical team and pretty good at set-pieces. Leno tried to make up for the lack of aerial power in our defence and it almost cost us when he was nowhere near the ball from a corner (free-kick?) and it was only Xhaka’s instinct to move towards the goal-line that saved us from a sure (earlier) equaliser. The costly Chelsea mistake flashed before my eyes. His distribution was often hasty and we lost possession unnecessarily a few times.
Saka: 9 – incredible performance all over the pitch. MOTM. Sign that boy up for years to come, Arteta. Physically present throughout the game, positionally strong in defence and attack, great creative support in attack, many interceptions and balls won, and he has that ability to skin a defender with the ball comfortably stuck to his foot and then deliver a beautifully measured cross or pass, which is so rare in football. Love this lad – I will go and buy his shirt.
Luiz: 7 – solid and energetic. Positioned well and worked effectively with his full back, Saka. Only criticism is his aerial strength/timing at times.
Mustafi: 6 – at times he looks world class and other times he looks an amateur. Partly at fault for the SU goal as he should have been were Ainsley was – who should have been on the RB position. I still feel he could be more effective in midfield as Lucas Torreira’s replacement. He had a few good quick forward passes and some fine interceptions, but his positional awareness and anticipation of danger, especially in the air, is below par. He made me miss Big Sok yesterday.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: 7 – half a point deduction for his part in the SU goal (see Mustafi) and another half point deduction for a few misplaced crosses, but he added calm to our defence and made some good interceptions. AMN also worked well with Pepe. He is slowly becoming our automatic choice on the RB position… our new Sagna!
Xhaka: 8 – many will have Torreira as their MOTM and score Granit lower, but if you watch the game again you will see they both were equally good. Both had key interceptions and worked hard to dominate the midfield. Both moved the ball forward well, aided the attack continuously and protected the defence with intelligence as well as hard work. They both need each other to be at their best and Mikel knows it, thank God.
Torreira: 8 – see Xhaka.
Ozil: 6.5 – stayed too central in the first half, making it hard for fellow players to reach him with the ball. In the second half Mesut got much more involved in the passing triangles on both flanks and that made a difference. Seemed to suffer most from Auba’s absence. Final passes were overhit a few times which is not like Mesut at all. Still class of course.
Martinelli: 7.5 – worked so hard and got the (‘Auba’) goal we were hoping for. He is such a natural forward with great positioning and anticipation of where the ball will be in the next two seconds. Plenty of room for improvement of his in-field positional play, but what a gem of an attacker we have got. The Saka-Martinelli combo is one to watch: these boys are top class.
Laca: 7.5 – made the key pre-assist for the goal and could have one or two more of these. Tireless central forward play with his back to the goal, which created space for others to strut their stuff. Pepe and Ozil need to appreciate this more and learn to combine better with him.
Pepe: 6.5 – man of moments and he is slowly getting better but we need more intensity and a better final ball. Pepe also needs to realise ala Martinelli that Laca is working his socks off to leave space behind him to profit from. It will come but I must say that Nelson seems to be a better fit for Arteta-ball at the moment.