Arsenal ended their run of four games without a win by beating Sheffield United 3-0 to move back into the top half of the Premier League.
Making a host of changes to the starting XI after Thursday’s lacklustre 1-1 draw with Slavia Prague in the Europa League, Mikel Arteta was rewarded for the innovation he showed in deploying Granit Xhaka at left-back and Bukayo Saka in central attacking midfield with a dominant performance.
The Gunners made their dominance count on the half-hour mark with a goal reminiscent of the type of football they played under their iconic former manager Arsene Wenger.
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A slick passing move that looked like something out of the training ground led to a delightful flick from Dani Ceballos into the path of Alexandre Lacazette, who took a touch then passed the ball into the bottom corner with maximal composure.
Gabriel Martinelli made it two in the 71st minute with his first Arsenal goal since January 2020 when he tapped in the rebound after Nicolas Pepe’s shot was well saved by Aaron Ramsdale.
Lacazette then sealed the victory late on with a darting finish from Thomas Partey's perfectly-timed through ball from deep in midfield.
Next up for Arsenal is a trip to Prague next Thursday for the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final, while the Blades are away to Wolves next Saturday.
TALKING POINT - Here we go again
The level of unpredictability and inconsistency of Arsenal under the tutelage of Arteta has created a perpetual cycle of cautious optimism followed by crushing disappointment for Arsenal fans.
Lacazette looking clinical, Ceballos and Partey marshalling the midfield, Saka excelling in a free role behind the striker, Pepe looking more confident, Xhaka carving out a potential niche as a utility man and Martinelli getting his first goal in a while.
All of those things are valid reasons to be positive, but without a clear philosophy and direction in terms of squad-building as well as the lack of consistent results to show for it, a win against the awfully bad Sheffield United - a team glued to the bottom of the Premier League - should not even come close to converting any sceptics of Arteta and this Arsenal side.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal)
We could have gone for either Ceballos or Partey, who both controlled the game and got an assist apiece, but you cannot ignore that display from Lacazette. He can be such a stressfully frustrating player to watch at times, but this was almost therapeutic how much more composed he looked in front of goal. His movement was great too and he prevented this game from being a potential banana skin by bagging his 49th and 50th Premier League goals.
Sheffield United: Ramsdale 4, Ampadu 5, Egan 6, Stevens 5, Baldock 5, Osborn 5, Lundstram 5, Fleck 6, Norwood 7, McGoldrick 5, Burke 5. Subs: McBurnie 6, Brewster 5, Mousset N/A
Arsenal: Leno 6, Xhaka 7, Chambers 7, Mari 7, Holding 7, Ceballos 8, Partey 8, Martinelli 8, Saka 7, Pepe 8, Lacazette 9. Subs: Willian 6, Elneny N/A, Nketiah N/A
10' - CLOSE!! Lovely touch and turn from McGoldrick in the box! He drags his shot just wide though.
33' - GOAL! Sheffield United 0-1 Arsenal (Lacazette). That one will bring back memories of Wengerball! A slick, training ground-esque passing move resulting in a Ceballos flick to Lacazette that's put past the keeper with maximal composure. Wonderful goal to make it 1-0!
42' - CLOSE!! Pepe takes the corner and Lacazette's near post flick is only cleared as far as Martinelli whose powerful shot from the middle of the box is deflected out for another corner by Egan. A lot of chances are falling to him tonight!
71' - GOAL! Sheffield United 0-2 Arsenal (Martinelli). Martinelli makes it two for Arsenal! Sheffield United have been trying to play it out from the back all game and they're deservedly made it to pay for it with Lundstram's pass ending up at Pepe's feet. His shot is saved by Ramsdale and Martinelli is there to tap in the rebound.
85' - GOAL! Sheffield United 0-3 Arsenal (Lacazette). Lacazette seals it! Partey receives the ball in midfield, turns Osborn in masterful fashion and dispatches a perfectly-timed through ball along the grass into the path of Lacazette, who clinically smashes it into the bottom left corner.
90' - CHANCE!! Brilliant from Pepe, who has found space in the middle of the box. He tries to be unselfish and lay it off to Nketiah after taking an extra touch but he probably should've just been ruthless and put his foot through it!
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