Unai Emery claimed Nicolas Pepe’s miss from six yards was a key moment as Arsenal’s run of eight games unbeaten in all competitions came to an end at Sheffield United.

Lys Mousset’s goal at Bramall Lane gave the Blades a 1-0 win as Arsenal’s poor run against the Blades continued, having never won against them in four Premier League attempts.

Pepe has endured a frustrating start to his career in England having moved from Lille for £72million in the summer with the forward yet to score from open play for the Gunners.  

The defeat means Arsenal miss an opportunity to go third in the league and Emery believes Pepe’s miss is part of a process with improvement and gaining confidence.

"The chance for us, for Pepe, was the key," he told reporters.

"Because if they score the first goal, defensively they’re very strong.

"Pepe is improving I think, but his way with us is little-by-little getting better, and the next step is to score.

"Tonight for example, the best chance is one he is usually going to score, but he didn’t take it with efficiency. He is improving and taking confidence, but it is one process."

Arsenal were denied a "clear penalty" in their 1-0 defeat to Sheffield United and did not deserve to lose the match, according to boss Unai Emery.

Lys Mousset scored the only goal in Monday's Premier League clash at Bramall Lane to earn the hosts a famous victory on his first league start.

The 23-year-old profited from some slack defending from a corner to punish Arsenal, who had previously gone eight matches unbeaten in all competitions.

Defeat for Arsenal cost them the chance to move up to third in the table, but Emery felt his side were denied an obvious penalty for John Egan's shirt pull on Sokratis inside the opening seven minutes.

"We did not deserve to lose and we conceded a lot of corners in the first half and they scored in one action," he told Sky Sports. "Above all, we have to improve by not allowing balls like that. 

"When we have our opportunities to attack, we created more chances than them but did not score today. 

"We deserved more from the game but they have conceded the least goals in the Premier League and it was going to be difficult if they scored first. We tried in the second half, created three good chances to score.

"There were two key moments in the match - one was their goal, and the second was a very clear penalty for us for a foul on Sokratis. It was very clear."

Bukayo Saka was later cautioned for a perceived dive inside the box under pressure from Enda Stevens, five minutes after Mousset's winning goal from close range.

"Saka drives forward but I do not know if it was a penalty," Emery said. "It is a hard action for a yellow card. With VAR, the foul on Sokratis should have been reviewed. It was clear but we have to accept it.

"We did not deserve to lose and we will think about where we can improve. When we were losing 1-0, we controlled the game and defended well but they had a lot of players in their box so it was difficult to achieve attacks."

Arsenal are now winless in four league games away from home since the opening weekend and Emery added: "We have challenges in each match. 

"Tonight we had a big challenge to get the three points. We are playing some young players who are taking experience but the most important thing is to win. The result is one thing, but we can analyse positively."

In over a year at the club, it's difficult to see what impact Unai Emery has actually had on Arsenal.

Even before kick-off at Bramall Lane, there was a certain aura around the contest that had Arsenal's struggles on Monday looking entirely predictable.

Firstly, the Gunners' record in Sheffield – for what it matters – is woeful in the Premier League, having won just once against United or Wednesday and losing six.

While the Blades' pre-match position of 15th was hardly anything to be impressed by, they have been lauded for their defensive solidity, conceding the joint-fewest goals in the division with Liverpool.

If there was a team you could see a mentally fragile Arsenal struggling against in a game many would ordinarily expect them to win, it was the Blades.

The Gunners' display was reassuringly typical.

Much of the build-up play was easy on the eye, yet they were sorely lacking killer instinct and once again appeared feeble at the back. On top of that, it remains a mystery as to what Emery's plan is.

Nicolas Pepe's performance was his Arsenal career in a microcosm. The Ivory Coast international showed some nice flashes and, in fairness, was arguably the visitors' most creative player, delivering 12 crosses – five of them accurate – and crafting a glorious chance for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

But then came the moment of horror. With Sead Kolasinac's low cross played right across the face of goal, Pepe was there to tap in from about two yards out, only he barely touched the ball and he was left with his head in his hands.

United capitalised and exploited Arsenal's defensive frailty with 30 minutes on the clock. Oliver Norwood's corner found Jack O'Connell unmarked at the back post and his header was diverted home by the similarly unattended Lys Mousset in the middle of the six-yard box.

It was the 22nd goal Arsenal have conceded from a set-piece in the Premier League since the start of last season, the third worst after Everton (24) and Watford (25).

As such, Arsenal have now kept just two clean sheets in their past 14 league games.

They were the dominant force after the interval, spending much of it in the Blades' half, but it was still unclear how they planned to find a way through.

Dani Ceballos' introduction at least saw a competent ball-player enter the fray, though he didn't offer much drive or incisiveness, rather spending most of his time spraying long-range passes out to the right flank.

It's the same old story; Arsenal possess talent but lack character.

Even in Arsene Wenger's latter days one could see an identity, but now that's less clear. Emery's general system resembles that of a counter-attacking team, though most weeks they look almost unrecognisable to the last.

Of course, part of that comes down to the players being used, but at the same time that suggests Emery regularly squeezes players into roles they aren't suitable for.

As their desperation grew on Monday, Arsenal's plan B seemed to be based on hooking hopeful balls into the penalty area and that never looked like working against this Sheffield United defence.

Arsenal's lack of inspiration and ingenuity meant defeat was entirely deserved, but most alarming is how predictable their gutless performance was. It was entirely in keeping with their away record under Emery, having won just eight of 24 Premier League games on the road since he took over, recording two clean sheets.

Until Emery fixes that spinlessness, he is doomed to leave Arsenal having changed nothing.

Arsenal boss Unai Emery is happy with the improvement he has seen with Mesut Ozil in training as the midfielder targets a future at Emirates Stadium.

Ozil has played just twice in all competitions this season, yet he insisted in a wide-ranging interview with The Athletic on Thursday that he will not be leaving Arsenal before the end of his contract in 2021.

Emery also appears open to giving Ozil another chance, revealing the factors for his limited action this term ahead of Monday's Premier League trip to Sheffield United.

They include an attempted armed robbery in London that targeted Ozil and Arsenal team-mate Sead Kolasinac.

Emery has previously suggested Ozil was not offering enough in training to warrant more regular football, but he is pleased with the player's recent response.

"With Mesut, this year started with difficulty for him," Emery told a news conference on Thursday. "In pre-season, he worked well and was playing in the matches.

"But his problem with Sead stopped his progression and then, after that problem, he was sick for one week. He lost a lot of training to continue to work and keep his fitness.

"In the last two or three weeks, his training has improved. It's good. I didn't close with him the possibility of playing. If he is okay, if he is ready, if he is available and training, gives us a good feeling every day in training, he can play.

"My idea is to use every player and he is one in the squad who can help us. He has big skills and qualities we will need in the next matches.

"I am happy now with how he is improving, how he is training every day. He's one more player in the squad.

"[Previously] in that moment, maybe physically, maybe with more rhythm, maybe depending on each match, there were other players in front of him. Now, I feel better with him."

Kieran Tierney is ready to start at Bramall Lane, while Alexandre Lacazette is back in full training, with Emery refusing to rule out the possibility of the France striker starting.

"Today was his first session with us and he's feeling well," said Emery, adding to the club's earlier update on Lacazette's fitness.

"It depends on how he feels in the next days whether he'll feature on Monday, but it's been positive. I don't know if he will play 90 minutes or start on the bench."

Mesut Ozil is adamant he will not leave Arsenal before his contract expires in 2021, insisting he is "going nowhere" despite struggling to convince Unai Emery.

Ozil joined Arsenal from Real Madrid in 2013 and for much of that time has been one of the Premier League's best attacking midfielders.

However, he has often had to contend with criticism of his style of play, personality and perceived lack of work ethic, while he made just 20 Premier League starts last term, seemingly not fitting into Emery's system.

Although he enjoyed a positive pre-season, Ozil has played just twice this season in all competitions, his campaign disrupted by injury and when he was the target of an attempted armed robbery in London alongside team-mate Sead Kolasinac.

The combination of underwhelming form and criticism has seen transfer speculation increase, but Ozil insists he will not be forced out before his contract finishes at the end of next season.

"I have a contract until the summer of 2021, and I will be staying until then," Ozil told The Athletic.

"When I signed the new deal [in January 2018], I thought about it very carefully and said it was one of the most important decisions of my footballing career.

"I didn't want to stay for just one or two more years, I wanted to commit my future to Arsenal and the club wanted me to do the same.

"You can go through difficult times, like this, but that is no reason to run away and I'm not going to. I'm here until at least 2021.

"I said that Arsene Wenger was a big factor in me joining Arsenal – and he was – but ultimately I signed for the club. Even when Arsene announced he was leaving, I wanted to stay because I love playing for Arsenal and that's why I've been here for six years.

"When I moved from Real Madrid, it was a really tough time for Arsenal, but I always believed in what we could do and together we delivered.

"More recently things have been difficult and a lot has changed, but I'm proud to be an Arsenal player, a fan and I'm happy here.

"Whenever people see me in the street I always say, 'This is my home'. I'm going nowhere."

Some have even gone as far as suggesting Ozil gave up after signing a new contract, but such claims are baseless according to the Schalke youth product.

He said: "If that was true, why did I work so hard and positively during pre-season this year?

"And why, after the World Cup last year, did I return from holiday early for the first time in my career to start training three days before I was expected back?

"I did it for the new coach, the team and the club. Maybe people don't like that I have a good contract? I don't know or care."

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