Sheffield United 1-0 Arsenal
- Goal: Lys Mousset (£4.9m)
- Assist: Jack O’Connell (£4.5m)
- Bonus: O’Connell x3, John Egan (£4.5m) x2, Mousset, Chris Basham (£4.5m) x1
The John Lundstram (£4.6m) love-in continues, with the budget Fantasy asset recording his fourth clean sheet of the season on Monday evening and moving back to the top of the overall points table among Fantasy Premier League defenders.
Lundstram contributed to an excellent collective performance from Chris Wilder’s team in the final match of Gameweek 9, with the Blades moving up to ninth in the Premier League table with a 1-0 win over a flat Arsenal side.
No top-flight club has kept more shut-outs or conceded fewer goals than Sheffield United in 2019/20.
The fact that they have played five of the current top six in the division in the opening nine Gameweeks makes their achievement even more impressive and it is genuinely not hyperbole to say that, amid the struggles of various teams elsewhere, they are one of the most impressive defensive units in the Premier League at present.
There was the odd moment to cause hearts to flutter on Monday night – Nicolas Pepe (£9.3m) and Dani Ceballos (£5.5m) failing to connect with shots when well-positioned in the hosts’ area – but for the most part, the Blades kept Arsenal at bay without too much bother and nullified Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.1m) completely.
With Lundstram owned by more FPL managers than the rest of the Sheffield United squad combined, it’s easy to forget about the rest of Wilder’s defence – four of whom are now cheaper than Lundstram following his price rises.
Jack O’Connell (£4.5m), Chris Basham (£4.5m), John Egan (£4.5m), Enda Stevens (£5.0m) and George Baldock (£4.5m) were part of an excellent rearguard effort in the second half and sporadically showcased their attacking attributes at the other end, with overlapping centre-halves O’Connell and Basham getting forward to support wing-backs Stevens and Baldock.
It was O’Connell, indeed, who provided the headed assist for match-winner Lys Mousset (£4.9m) in the first half.
Five Sheffield United players now sit in the top 11 highest-scoring FPL defenders of 2019/20, with Basham not far behind that quintet.
Dean Henderson (£4.6m), meanwhile, now trails only Rui Patricio (£5.2m) for overall points among goalkeepers.
There is less appeal regarding Sheffield United’s attacking assets, with rotation and a relative lack of creativity – only Watford and Newcastle have scored fewer goals than Wilder’s side – obvious deterrents regarding the Blades’ forwards.
A pairing of Mousset and David McGoldrick (£5.4m) was the fourth different combination Wilder has gone for up top this season, with Oli McBurnie (£5.9m) and Callum Robinson (£5.3m) having played a major role in the first eight Gameweeks and Billy Sharp (£5.7m) making cameo appearances off the bench.
Wilder said of Mousset’s performance after his full league debut for the Blades:
He has been knocking on the door. We had to get him up to speed. A lot of work has been put in with the conditioners and Lys himself, to get him in the situation where he starts a game.
You could see, just after half-time, he was struggling. But he’d done enough on his home debut.
Arsenal have struggled away from home over the last ten months and this was their fourth Premier League fixture on the road without a win.
Arguably all five of their displays away from home have been unconvincing in 2019/20, with the win at Newcastle and draw at Old Trafford about as good as it has got – which is saying something.
At the Emirates, the Gunners have the third-best minutes-per-chance average among Premier League clubs.
Away from home, they rank a lowly joint-15th for that statistic.
The good news for owners of Aubameyang and co. is that three of Arsenal’s next four fixtures are in north London.
Pepe and Bukayo Saka (£4.5m) were intermittently bright on Monday, with the former perhaps having his best game in an Arsenal shirt (very faint praise) but ultimately responsible for a horrible miscue from six yards when the Gunners had their clearest opportunity of the game.
Unai Emery said of his two wide players:
Pepe is improving and I think Pepe’s way with us is little-by-little, getting better. The next step is to score.
Tonight, for example, the best chance is one he is usually going to score but tonight he didn’t take that with efficiency. He also had two shots that were very important. I think he is improving and taking confidence with us. But it is one process.
Another player, Bukayo, is another step ahead he did tonight.
The second-half introduction of Dani Ceballos (£5.5m) and the fit-again Alexandre Lacazette (£9.3m) injected some urgency into their play but the hosts were scarcely troubled, save for Ceballos’ weak shot from a Saka cross.
Aubameyang has made a habit of scoring from precious few opportunities over the last 18 months, regularly emerging from near-anonymity to deliver an attacking return for his owners.
Even his Midas touch couldn’t turn the game around at Bramall Lane, with one blocked first-half attempt all he had to show for his efforts as his teammates starved him of service.
Emery was bullish in defeat, highlighting a strong penalty shout on Sokratis (£5.0m) in his post-match press conference:
Really I think we created more chances than them, the better chances, but tonight we didn’t achieve the efficiency to win that match.
We conceded more corners to them than we wanted, and from one they scored. Also, when they are pushing and they are taking a lot of corners, they can do that. We created more corners, 12 [compared to] seven or eight for them, and also we had the chances and had a very clear penalty to Sokratis. I think the VAR is for this reason, for actions like that.
The first chances for us were very clear, for Pepe was the key I think because they are the team in the Premier League who has conceded the least I think, with Liverpool – seven only – and if they score the first goal, then defensively they are very strong and they defended very well.
In the second half, it was not easy to get chances, I think we controlled the ball more with possession because they conceded metres on the pitch and we had chances to score, but we didn’t achieve that goal to draw and the try to win.
Sheffield United XI (3-5-2): Henderson; Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Norwood (McBurnie 85′), Lundstram, Fleck, Stevens; Mousset (Sharp 55′), McGoldrick (Freeman 78′).
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Leno; Chambers, Sokratis, Luiz, Kolasinac; Xhaka (Lacazette 69′), Guendouzi; Willock (Ceballos 46′), Pepe (Martinelli 78′), Saka; Aubameyang,
Lessons learned from Gameweek 9
- Everton 2-0 West Ham United
- Aston Villa 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion
- Bournemouth 0-0 Norwich City
- Chelsea 1-0 Newcastle United
- Leicester City 2-1 Burnley
- Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Watford
- Wolves 1-1 Southampton
- Crystal Palace 0-2 Manchester City
- Manchester United 1-1 Liverpool
- Sheffield United 1-0 Arsenal
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