Football Features

Arsenal 1-1 Sheff Utd: Winners & losers as Martinelli makes his mark

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 17:08, 18 January 2020

Arsenal snatched a point from the jaws of victory against Sheffield United at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon.

Mikel Arteta’s side were seemingly cruising to another home win but were denied by this season’s surprise Premier League package.

Gabriel Martinelli, in the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, had given the hosts a first half lead before John Fleck’s equaliser late on.

But who were individual winners and losers from this encounter in north London?

Winner: Gabriel Martinelli

Soon after realising he will be without leading marksman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for up to three domestic matches, following his sending off against Crystal Palace last weekend, Gunners boss Mikel Arteta saw this upcoming period as an opportunity for the club’s other attacking players to prove this is not a one-man team.

Heading into this showdown with Sheffield United the Gabonese forward had been responsible for 48% of the Gunners’ Premier League goals this season (14/29).

It’s fitting that goal number 30 was scored by a star in the making. Martinelli, who joined the 13-time English champions last summer from Brazil-based Ituano, has largely been used across their various cup commitments but he’s now starting to feature prominently in the Premier League.

The youngster marked only his second league start at home, playing in Aubameyang’s familiar left-forward role, with a 45th-minute goal. Arteta wanted a response and the Spanish tactician certainly got it from one hungry teenager who, with nine goals in all competitions, is the club’s second top scorer this season.

Loser: Alexandre Lacazette

In the absence of Aubameyang taking centre stage was Alexandre Lacazette, who not only led the line, but took Arsenal’s captain’s armband. He didn’t exactly lead by example as he gave the ball away on three occasions, more than any of his teammates, whilst mustering just one shot on goal.

The low-on-confidence French striker was hauled off in the 74th minute, with recalled forward Eddie Nketiah taking his place, and he’s now gone six league matches without a goal.

Winner: Bukayo Saka

Martinelli couldn’t have found the net if not for Bukayo Saka’s wonderful cross from the left flank. Nominally a left-winger, the England Under-19 international has been utilised as a left-back of late, though more out of necessity if anything.

Kieran Tierney’s injury woes, plus Sead Kolašinac’s inconsistency – although the Bosnian international is currently injured in the physio room – has offered Saka a regular starting berth in Arsenal’s first team. He’s grabbed that opportunity with today representing his first assist for the club from this unfamiliar position.

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Loser: Arsenal’s rearguard

Just when it looked like Arsenal were heading for a rare clean sheet the familiar scene of Bernd Leno picking the ball out of his net arrived. Today saw the 32nd time the German shot-stopper was beaten in the league this season. It means the Gunners head into matchday 24 having kept just four shutouts. Only Spurs (3) and Norwich City (2) have kept fewer in the Premier League this season.

It’s a kick in the teeth for Arteta’s side as Sheffield United seldom threatened. The draw also means the hosts were unable to match north London rivals Spurs on 31 points. Jose Mourinho’s run of four Premier League matches without a win (two points collected from 12 available) coupled with Arteta slowly turning Arsenal’s fortunes around could have seen the sides draw level – but the gap is two points.

Winner: John Fleck

It’s fair to say the Blades started this Premier League season like a house on fire. They were, and still are, a breath of fresh air. But reality seems to have hit them hard. Having been unbeaten across their opening nine away league matches they came into this weekend losing in each of their last two away from home, albeit against Manchester City and Liverpool.

And when it looked like being three on the bounce, up stepped John Fleck – whose equaliser proved to be his first goal away from home this term. The point is a good one and Chris Wilder’s men have left Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and West Ham with a draw this season. The Sheffield United boss clearly enjoys a trip to the capital.