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Monday evening Arsenal pay a visit to Bramall Lane, an old-time football ground in South Yorkshire, to take on Sheffield United, the league’s rock-bottom side. The Gunners haven’t played a league game at Bramall Lane for three years, since April 2021, when a very different Gunners side emerged victorious by 3-0 with two goals by Lacazette and one by Martinelli. Aaron Ramsdale was the goalkeeper for the Blades that day, and the only two Gunners’ starters that day who can be expected to start on Monday are Martinelli and Saka.

The Opposition

The Blades have played their home games at Bramall Lane ever since the club was formed in 1889. They contested the first two seasons of the Premier League before getting relegated in 1994. After more than two decades in the wilderness, including six seasons in League One and only one in the Premier League, they came back up in 2019 under Chris Wilder and stayed two seasons before getting relegated. This season they came up once again under Paul Heckingbottom but the Blades sacked him three months ago, and Wilder took back the reins but they now look set to continue their roller coaster ride with relegation a near certainty.

Facing a top three side is a daunting prospect when your team has floundered as the Blades have this season. They come into the game with the league’s worst goal difference at -44 having conceded 66 times in their 26 games, or 2.53 goals per match.  And not only have they conceded the most of any Premier League side, their attacking has been so inept that they have scored the fewest (22).  Last Sunday the Blades failed to score at Wolves and saw their average goals scored per game fall to 0.85. But it’s bad karma to harp endlessly about the Blades’ weaknesses, so I’ll stop and just say that Arsenal had best stay focused so as to avoid the proverbial banana skin that their rivals Liverpool and Manchester City managed to avoid this weekend.

The Arsenal

Mikel Arteta’s team news, announced on Thursday, will be four days old at kickoff but he indicated that Partey (who also started at Bramall Lane in April 2021) should be in the squad for the first time since October; Tomiyasu and Zinchenko could be back in contention but their condition will be assessed after Sunday’s final training session. Gabriel Jesus should be available after missing Arsenal’s last four matches but Arteta sounded a note of caution about the striker: “We need him fit – he’s a massive player for us and now we want to make sure we load him in the right way.”

Having dispatched Newcastle 4-1 last week, high-flying Arsenal have scored 25 goals from six matches, or more than 4 goals per game.  Rounding out those 25 goals the Gunners tallied five at Burnley, six at West Ham, three at home to Liverpool, two at Forest, and five at home to Crystal Palace.  Arsenal’s 27 set piece goals, of their 62 goals scored in all, is their most in a single league season since those statistics began to be kept, in 2004-05. The Gunners’ excellent last two months, as they began the calendar year with six league wins for the first time in their history, propelled them into the league’s joint best goal difference of +39, the same as Liverpool and four better than Manchester City but the other two clubs have played once more so the Gunners could use a big win in Sheffield to keep the other clubs behind them in at least that category. 

Saka has been the spearhead of the Arsenal attack in that stretch, and scored in five consecutive league appearances. He is the first English player to do so for Arsenal since Ian Wright in 1994, and the last Arsenal player of any nationality to do so since Olivier Giroud nine years ago. Here’s hoping that Bukayo can keep on adding to his total while his boot is looking so golden.

Arsenal XI

The Gunners haven’t played for over a week, and they now face the prospect of very few fixtures in the next month due to the rescheduling of the Chelsea fixture so I see no need for the gaffer to change up the side that’s been so successful in recent weeks.

White – Saliba – Gabriel – Kiwior
Ødegaard – Rice – Havertz
Saka – Trossard – Martinelli

The ‘holic pound

Short and sweet: a repeat of April 2021 should do quite nicely, thank you, so my prediction is: Arsenal 3 Sheffield United 0

Have a good one, ‘holics.

46 Drinks to “No foreseeable off day, or night, for the Arsenal”

  1. 1
    TTG says:

    Thanks for your usual excellent and well-researched preview Bt8 .
    As you say at this point, especially against the stragglers , only wins will do and comprehensive wins, if we can muster them could be vital.
    This week sees Citeh and Liverpool play each other and we have Brentford at home to follow so with the right results we could be very close to the top Sunday evening and actually top on Saturday evening. But there is hard work to be done first . Hopefully we should just be too good tonight .
    Your team looks good but I think Jorginho might retain his place with Havertz in the false 9 role . We might see Partey later from the bench if things go well. I think your 3-0 to us looks a good shout. Safe journey to the Countrymen who will be there this evening,, particularly interesting to C100 as Bramall Lane has strong cricketing connections. Coukd we hope for a cricket score?

  2. 2
    Ollie says:

    Cheers bt8. No off day for the Arsenal please, but a day off for me! 🙂
    I’m fearful of that sort of match where we are overwhelmingly favourites, and most people expect us to win 5-0. March is going to be odd fixtureswise, but I’ll take any comfortable win, as long as there’s no injury.

  3. 3
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Thanks bt8,
    I know it’s a banana skin but really another spanking is in order so 4-0 it is.

  4. 4
    bathgooner says:

    Thanks for an excellent and informative preview, bt8. I suspect you have picked the starting XI correctly as Arteta will probably want the team on the front foot from the off and may not feel the need for the addition of Jorginho’s midfield security. Having said that, I share Ollie’s concern about the trap of being overwhelming favourites into which many a side has fallen, in the past, due to complacency. Hard to be complacent with MA8 on the touchline but still….Focus, focus, focus.

    Unfortunately, I shall miss the match live as I will be watching Dominic West treading the boards at the Theatre Royal but I will aim to avoid any spoilers and hope watch it ‘live’ at 10pm GMT.

    Just win, Gunners.

  5. 5
    Esso says:

    Cheers Bt8!

  6. 6
    Las says:

    Cheers bt8, excellent preview! Your forecast would do nicely. Havertz scoring a brace.

  7. 7
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks bt8, be nice to start getting some players back but hopefully we won’t need them tonight. They rolled us over 1-0 at their place a few years ago, a terrible game. Nothing like that today I think as the current mob are terrible.

  8. 8
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Excellent preview bt8, thanks!

    I think your team is the likeliest, but I wonder if Jesus may get a start instead of Trossard and Leo coming on around 60th minute. He does really well as a sub and Jesus against a porous defense will cause more early threats. It’s one match at a time etc. but it would be great if he can get up to full fitness to last the ninety minutes by the time Porto comes to London.

    I haven’t seen our opposition play at all this season except the encounter at home, and which I don’t remember very well. Mikel says their league position is somewhat unfortunate and he seems to be publicly warning his team about any complacency. If we start at the right intensity and stay on the groove for the full ninety minutes we should be able to return home with the right result.

    Come on Arsenal!

  9. 9
    North Bank Ned says:

    Short and sweet, but informative and to the point, as ever, bt8.

    Partey and Jesus starting on the bench would seem most likely, with Zinchenko and Tomiyasu waiting until next weekend to be brought back into the matchday squad. The need for a fully fit squad for the run-in seems to be a lesson that Arteta has taken from last season, so I doubt he will rush anyone back that he doesn’t need to. Frankly, bt8’s XI should be able to beat this Sheffield Utd team anyway.

    Bath is right that this is the sort of game where we have tripped up in the past, but Arteta will keep the team focused. It would be nice to seek Lewis-Skelley or Cozier-Duberry get a few minutes so that Saka or Martinelli could put their feet up early.

    This might have been a game for ESR to start, but I get the impression that he is off-games again.

  10. 10
    Trev says:

    Thanks bt8 – short and sweet, as Ned said, and hopefully like our passing through their deep block.

    Some press opinion seems to be that Partey and Rice will start. If that were the case, Arteta could hardly be accused of rushing anyone back. Partey and Rice together for 20 minutes or so against Man City looked superb. If Thomas can stay fit – thus far a humungous IF – it must be the way to go. That would probably mean Havertz advancing to his false nine role as he has found form and goals in that role lately, and provides extra height at our set pieces at both ends of the pitch.

    An early goal could spark a rout. Happy to go with Noosa’s 4-0 👍🏻

  11. 11
    bt8 says:

    Thanks all for the kind comments. Re: TTG @1: If both Countrymen will be attending does that make it Countryman 200? 😆

  12. 12
    ClockEndRider says:

    Nice preview, BT8. I fancy the team you have put out. With only 2 more league games before the Interlull, I rather hope Arteta doesn’t feel the need to incorporate any of those coming back from injury. Absolutely no reason we should pay to get them fit only for them to be picked for their countries, travel all over the world and get injured again. Have them available for Porto only, in my opinion.

  13. 13
    BtM says:

    Just win.

    I’d like to see that team start, Bt8, develop a commanding lead and then have Jesus and Partey feature for the last 20 minutes each only.

    I like the sound of 3-0 but I like the sound of three points dropping into the poke even better.

    So, just win.

  14. 14
    bt8 says:

    Jorginho makes the team instead of Trossard, but Jesus and Partey are on the bench. All else pretty much as expected. COYG

  15. 15
    Countryman100 says:

    We’re in.

  16. 16
    Countryman100 says:

    Beautiful Down Town Bramall Lane, as the locals have it.

  17. 17
    Ollie says:

    Enjoy C100s! Or C200 as bt8 suggested.
    Bring us luck.

  18. 18
    Countryman100 says:

    The Countrymen. Northern Tour.

  19. 19
    Trev says:

    Must be C150 ?

  20. 20
    ClockEndRider says:

    Here’s to a great night up there, C100

  21. 21
    bt8 says:

    Trev 😆. I’d say it’s c170 at least.

  22. 22
    bt8 says:

    Re: TTG @ 1

    “I think Jorginho might retain his place with Havertz in the false 9 role .“

    Right you were.

  23. 23
    ClockEndRider says:

    Wow. This is some performance. Although it looks like it’s against 11 blokes just pulled out of the saloon bar of the Dog and Duck.

  24. 24
    Countryman100 says:

    It’s all a bit tense here ..🤣🤣

  25. 25
    ClockEndRider says:

    5 lucky, breakaway goals…..

  26. 26
    scruzgooner says:

    @24, crowd panicking seeking the exits?

  27. 27
    Las says:

    Wow, I mean wow….
    Thank you Mikel!

  28. 28
    ClockEndRider says:

    Superb performance. Odegaard was on a different level. Good trip back, C100.

  29. 29
    North Bank Ned says:

    Arteta seems to have worked out if you bang five or six past the opposition you avoid banana skins.

  30. 30
    ecg says:

    I can’t believe we didn’t over pay for a 70 goal a year striker in January!

    I think we may have set a record for number of goals scored in a 7 match stretch in the league. 31 if I did my maths okay.

  31. 31
    OsakaMatt says:

    A very enjoyable tonking, I love it when we put the game to bed so quickly

  32. 32
    bt8 says:

    Damn! We didn’t score on any corners.

    That’s not being greedy of course

  33. 33
    scruzgooner says:

    31 with 3 against, ecg. striking.

    ned@29 we also avoid the refs making poor decisions (like martinelli being thrown down neither called a foul nor being retroactively carded after havertz’s goal).

    what a pleasant way to win. i was worried sheffield might resort to gbh.

  34. 34
    bathgooner says:

    What a lovely evening! A magnificent performance by Dominic West and the rest of the cast in Arthur Miller’s brilliant play “A View from the Bridge” then home for the perfect nightcap of a delayed showing of the Gunner’s romp in Sheffield. I do like this sexy, sixy football. Hopefully Martinelli is OK.


  35. 35
    scruzgooner says:

    glad it was such a nice night for you, baff.

    re martinelli, according to arteta “‘t’is but a scratch.”

  36. 36
    scruzgooner says:

    come to think of it, that sketch resembles a lot of our games this year!

  37. 37
    OsakaMatt says:

    The Martinelli Wrestling throw down was quite funny really.
    Handy the ref played on in the end and though he didn’t card the Sheff Utd wrestler afterwards I thought he had quite a good game. Easy to one ref I suppose as apart from Bogle going through Ode they looked too disheartened to bother kicking us

  38. 38
    OsakaMatt says:

    Also we are not a team to be kicked around any more, we kick back.

    Good news on Martinelli

  39. 39
    North Bank Ned says:

    Apparently, Benny Blanco’s goal was the club’s 10,000th.

  40. 40
    Lonestar Gooner says:

    Cheers, bt8. I really enjoyed the preview. It was a fitting appetizer for the match.

    Baff, I’m envious. I loved Dominic’s Det. McNulty role on The Wire. Would love to see his other work.

    What a tonking laid down by the boys! Long may it continue.

    Cheers, OM and Ned for the assists in the last drinks. It was Odegaardian…


  41. 41
    North Bank Ned says:

    And another half-ton looms, LG.

  42. 42
    Ollie says:

    Up way too early again, hopefully back to normal within a day or two.
    Great hard-fought tough win against banaa skin. *wakes up* Game over in ten minutes, I didn’t have to worry.
    Bloody hell were they shite! And we were good.
    Amusing stat, apparently Saliba made more passes than the entire Sheffield United team.
    I’m vaguely hoping we beat City 7-0 at the Emptyhad now.

  43. 43
    ClockEndRider says:

    Re points above about opposition fouls, I thought it interesting the number of times our players played first time or second touch passes preventing the incoming clodhopper from being able legally to make contact. It was noticeable particularly that Saka was doing this and I thought as a result received far fewer Pulisian “let him know you’re here” non-awarded foul tackles.

  44. 44
    Ollie says:

    I nearly felt sorry for Sheffield United, CER, they could never even get close enough to attempt the usual maiming!

  45. 45
    Ollie says:

    *attempts to move ball forward to score a goal before the end of injury time*

  46. 46
    Bathgooner says: