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Punchless Gunners Humiliated Again

A surprising selection saw Unai Emery play the same team as last time out with the exception of Joe Willock in for Dani Ceballos. Kieran Tierney, Rob Holding, Lucas Torreira, and Alex Lacazette all started on the bench.

The hosts started on the offensive but a break for Nicolas Pepe and his cross was inches away from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the box. Sokratis Papastathopoulos got the wrong side of Egan and was clearly hauled back by the shirt, but who really expected Mike Dean to award the blatant penalty?

Fleck’s late chop on Aubameyang brought about the first yellow card of the evening. Mercifully the goalscorer was able to continue, albeit treading carefully for a while. Against the run of play Pepe starting a glorious counter-attack but he squandered the opportunity from a Kolasinac cross at the conclusion of a free-flowing move.

A the half hour arrived we once again fell apart at the back post. The ball was headed across the face of goal by O’Connell and there was an unmarked Mousset for the simplest of tap-ins. Welcome to a struggling side, The Arsenal, let’s gift them an opener.

Basham appeared to upend Bukayo Saka. It looked as though an ankle was clipped but Saka made the most of the contact and somewhat harshly received a yellow card. Freddie Ljungberg saw the same card for the vehemence of his protest at the hapless officials. O’Connell’s blatant body check on Pepe saw yet another booking dished out.

As the half drew to a close Xhaka tried his luck with a long range volley which was comfortably parried clear by Henderson in the Blades goal. The same player’s header from the resulting corner popped over join of bar and post and yet another poor half from The Gunners drew to a disappointing close.

The introduction for the second-half of Dani Ceballos in place of Willock was only to be expected. Would that provide us with the shred of creativity sorely missing until this point? Mousset’s handball when unmarked again at the far post was both a let-off and another warning. We had started the half with more control of possession  then at any other point but again no bite from outside the box.

Mousset was withdrawn and local boy Sharp was thrust into the Blades attack. He almost immediately set the rampaging Baldock free at the far post but a hurried drive sliced wide of the target. At last an opportunity fell our way but Ceballos hit tamely at Henderson. 1-0 it remained. Fleck was not far from doubling the advantage but his rasping drive found the wrong side of the side-netting.

At least Dean displayed a degree of consistency when booking McGoldrick for diving when untouched by Matthieu Guendouzi. At long last Emery sent Lacazette into the action with just over twenty minutes remaining. Why it had taken this long goodness only knows. Xhaka was rightly hooked.

Twice in quick succession Pepe tried his luck. A free-kick was pouched comfortably by Henderson and a follow-up went wide of the mark. In the aftermath Henderson was the latest to find himself in Dean’s notebook for time-wasting. The final change for the visitors saw Gabriel Martinelli sent on for the luckless Pepe. A familiar face, Luke Freeman came on for United’s McGoldrick. We poured yellow shirts forward but still there was too much, forward, back, sideways, further sideways.

The Yorkshiremen made one last change with McBurnie replacing Norwood. Fresh legs with less than five minutes to go. Sokratis picked up a yellow for his challenge on the aforementioned McBurnie. The ball was deep in Arsenal territory with three minutes remaining. That was pretty much where it remained until the added five minute which predictably went the way of what had gone before. Calum Chambers was carded for dissent and the better team saw out a deserved victory.

If you normally come here for a dash of perspective then I apologise. I now tire of a team that isn’t playing a style of football the sum of which it’s individual parts should most certainly deliver much. much better. Emery will surely get the rest of the season to deliver more, but if we mess up for a second consecutive season then it will be hard to argue for him getting a final season. It feels as though this would be that finale under those circumstances.

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