EPL

Arsenal produce devastating display to hit sorry Sheffield United for six

By Sports Desk March 04, 2024

Rampant Arsenal made history with a 6-0 win away to shambolic Sheffield United as Mikel Arteta’s side moved back to within two points of the Premier League summit.

Having seen title rivals Liverpool edge past Nottingham Forest and Manchester City defeat Manchester United, Mikel Arteta’s men knew they had to respond at the Championship-bound Blades.

Arsenal did so in style and could easily have struck more than the five first-half goals they managed at Bramall Lane, where the Monday evening mauling was completed by a Ben White thunderbolt.

This was the Gunners’ seventh straight Premier League win and saw them become the first English league side to win three consecutive away games by five or more goals.

By contrast, the Blades have now conceded five or more in four successive home games in all competitions – not exactly the fight boss Chris Wilder promised from his rock-bottom side.

Instead, United fans watched one the most humiliating first halves in Premier League history, with a Jayden Bogle own goal coming between efforts from Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli in the opening 15 minutes.

Kai Havertz and Declan Rice made it five by the half-time, which was greeted by boos from the Blades fans who had not already headed for a pint or an early exit.

White brilliantly fizzed home Arsenal’s sixth – the 10,000th goal in club history – as Arteta rung the changes, including taking off injured Martinelli after withdrawing Bukayo Saka at the break.

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    The 27-year-old Brazil international put pen to paper on a long-term deal on Thursday to end fears that he could leave the Magpies for nothing next summer despite becoming one of their most important players.

    Ultimately, the two parties managed to reach agreement over a man whose value on and off the pitch had increased substantially during his time on Tyneside, although head coach Howe knows the financial implications of doing so may impact on his summer business as the club attempts to comply with profit and sustainability limits.

    Howe said: “Of course something like this will have ramifications. You’re potentially lifting wages and that has an impact on your Financial Fair Play sheet.

    “But the alternative is that Joe leaves on a free transfer, which for a player of his quality, would be really bad business from us.

    “I think what has happened has alleviated that problem. But of course it maybe gives you problems elsewhere that you need to fix.”

    Whatever the financial fall-out from tying up Joelinton’s future, the football reasons for doing so are obvious.

    Under head coach Howe, a man who had been branded a flop following his then club record £40million switch from Hoffenheim as a striker during the summer of 2019, has established himself as a midfielder destroyer who played a key role in last season’s top-four Premier League finish.

    He is currently working his way back from thigh tendon surgery – he may or may not play again before the end of the current campaign – and his absence has been particularly telling.

    Securing the popular Brazilian at a time when interest in Bruno Guimaraes and Alexander Isak is mounting sends a message, Howe believes, that the club’s ambition remains intact.

    He said: “It helps with the perception of our ambition and that we’re still desperate to grow and improve. For me, to do that you have to try to keep your best players, you have to try to create something that everyone wants to be part of.”

    Howe thrust Joelinton into a midfield role after defender Ciaran Clark’s dismissal just nine minutes into a 1-1 draw with Norwich in his third game at the helm in November 2021, and he has not looked back since, building himself a reputation as a snarling enforcer, something far removed from his off-field character.

    Howe said: “For the size and stature that he is and how aggressive he is on the pitch, he is a soft, gentle giant off it.”

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    Asked if he had been able to relax during that game, Howe, who has doubts over Lewis Hall and Joe Willock, said with a smile: “Let me tell you, I didn’t feel like that, not even for a second. Not when you’ve got Harry Kane on the other team.

    “He then scores and you start looking at how long is left.”

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    Aston Villa boss Unai Emery knows his side have plenty of work to do in next week’s Europa Conference League quarter-final second leg in Lille.

    Villa will travel to France with a 2-1 advantage thanks to first-leg goals from Ollie Watkins and John McGinn gave the on-looking Prince of Wales something to cheer about.

    But Lille showed they are no pushovers and Bafode Diakite’s late header kept the tie alive after they had been repelled by an impressive performance from Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

    Villa must now go to northern France next week and finish the job if they are to make their first European semi-final since they won the European Cup in 1982.

    That will not be an easy task as the French football federation have postponed Lille’s Ligue 1 game this weekend to give them extra time to prepare and they have only been beaten once at home all season.

    Emery, who celebrated his 1,000th game as a manager, said: “Difficult match, we are ready to play another 90 minutes, we played the first 90 minutes, we didn’t control the game like we wanted and defensively we were doing more work than we prepared for because we wanted to control the game with our positioning.

    “With the respect we have got for them, they showed it.

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    “Be ready to play 90 minutes, even extra time, even a penalty shootout because now it is in this moment everything is difficult.”

    Lille boss Paulo Fonseca, who almost took over at Newcastle and Tottenham in the last few years, felt Watkins’ goal should have been disallowed for a foul by Morgan Rogers on Ismally.

    “I don’t understand what is going on, it was a foul on the first goal,” he said.

    “I understand it is difficult for the referee with VAR it is just incredible they miss these things. It’s not good what is going on in football, the referees must look at what is going on in the moment.

    “A lot of matches, it is not football, it is blocking like in basketball. The first goal was a clear foul, a clear block. Being physical is one thing, fouling is another.”

    However, after the way they created chances at Villa Park, Fonseca knows the tie is very much alive.

    “We created the opportunity to get a better result,” he added. “I’m satisfied with the courage of my players but at the end of the day, we’ve lost.

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