Gabriel Martinelli scored in his first start since January as Arsenal ended a run of four games without a win with victory over the Premier League’s bottom club Sheffield United.
The Brazilian has endured an injury-plagued season, but was on hand to net his side’s second with a finish into an unguarded goal after Aaron Ramsdale had pushed out Nicolas Pepe’s shot.
It was the 19-year-old’s first goal since January 2020.
It came between two Alexandre Lacazette goals – the first a neat first-half finish after Dani Ceballos’ back-heel and the second a clinical effort in the closing stages after he was put clear by Thomas Partey.
Sheffield United have won only four games this season and none since Paul Heckingbottom took caretaker charge a month ago and they had little answer to their opponents’ increased efficiency.
At 1-0 there was always a chance that this generous Arsenal side may provide the Blades with a way back in, but Martinelli’s strike ended such home hopes, with Lacazette adding the final flourish.
The win – complete with a first clean sheet in 15 games – lifts Arsenal above Leeds and Aston Villa and up to ninth in the table, with 45 points.
It did come at a potential cost, though, with Bukayo Saka limping off in the second half with a thigh injury, making him a possible doubt for the second leg of the Europa League last-eight tie with Slavia Prague on Thursday.
Sheffield United remain rooted to the bottom, 18 points from safety with just 21 left to play for. With their woeful goal difference, a loss at Wolves next Saturday will all but confirm their relegation.
Morale-boosting win for Arsenal ahead of big European game
Arsenal endured a chastening eight days in the lead up to this fixture, suffering a humbling 3-0 loss to Liverpool in the Premier League before drawing the home leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie with Slavia Prague.
Their hopes of attaining a Champions League spot via a top-four finish are long gone, leaving success in Europe’s secondary competition as their last remaining route back into its more lucrative big brother.
This game, then, was as much about getting Slavia’s late equaliser at the Emirates out of their system with a more composed, confidence-boosting win.
It took them a bit of time to warm up to the task, but ultimately they found their stride, with Lacazette’s opener coming during a period that saw Aaron Ramsdale tested and the side-netting struck.
Encouragingly, Martinelli, starting only his sixth game of an injury-plagued season, was at the heart of much of their attacking threat.
If he can stay fit for the remainder of the campaign, his excellent close control, direct running and eagerness to test an opposition goalkeeper could well make a big difference to a season currently finely balanced between success and disaster.
His re-appearance as a partner for the in-form Lacazette, who has five goals in his last six games, is timely in the absence of Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang.
Of some concern, though, will be the early departure of Saka from the game, with the talented young winger limping off after a challenge with Rhian Brewster.
The verdict on the Blades’ season is already more or less set in stone.
They fleetingly offered the threat of creating something to worry the Gunners but ended with only wayward efforts from David McGoldrick and Brewster to really show for their efforts.
After 31 games that have highlighted that much of their squad is not equipped for the Premier League, the next seven will help them decide which players they want with them in the Championship next season.
‘Ideal preparation for Prague’
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta to BT Sport: “I am really happy with the way we played, we scored some really nice goals and controlled the game the way we wanted. We played at a high level. From the start I felt the boys were at it, we were efficient.
“Bukayo Saka, the last thing we need is another injury but he felt something in his thigh.
“Gabriel Martinelli twisted his ankle but he’s a tough boy. Against Prague, Lacazette missed two big chances and he needed those goals. He has been playing well.
“This is ideal preparation for Thursday. It has been a long run without a clean sheet.”
Sheffield United interim boss Paul Heckingbottom to BBC Sport: “We didn’t have control without the ball in the first half so we had to make changes.
“We’ll keep fighting and pushing to make sure we get more points before the end of the season.
“We have a varied group, some young boys just starting their journey and some older players who have been on a journey with this club over the last five years.
“You have to learn from the tough moments and come back stronger.”
Arsenal punish the bottom side again
- In Premier League history, only Chelsea (42) have beaten the side starting the day bottom of the table more than Arsenal, with this win the Gunners’ 37th such victory (alongside Spurs).
- Sheffield United have suffered their 25th league defeat of the season, the most by a non-newly promoted side since Huddersfield in 2018-19 (28). Indeed, each of the previous 12 Premier League sides to lose 25+ matches in a season have been relegated, with 10 of those finishing rock bottom.
- Arsenal have secured their first ever Premier League victory at Bramall Lane at the fifth attempt of asking (D2 L2), with this their first league win there since April 1991.
- Arsenal are now unbeaten in their last four away games in the Premier League (W2 D2), their longest such run of the season. Indeed, the Gunners have earned more victories on the road (7) than they have at the Emirates this season (6).
- Arsenal have won 66.6% of their six Premier League games this season without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (W4 D1 L1), compared to 36% of those with him in the team (9/25).
- Paul Heckingbottom has seen his Sheffield United side concede 10 goals during his three Premier League games in charge, the joint-most after a manager’s first three games in the competition, alongside David Moyes (2002, Everton) and Christian Gross (1997, Spurs).
- Alexandre Lacazette has now scored 13 Premier League goals this season, 10 of which have come away from home – only Mohamed Salah (11) has scored more often on the road this term.
- Lacazette is the sixth Frenchman to score 50 Premier League goals for a single club, with four of the six doing so for Arsenal (also Thierry Henry, Olivier Giroud and Robert Pires).
Arsenal take on Slavia Prague in that all-important Europa League second leg on Thursday (20:00 BST), while Sheffield United are next in action on Saturday in a league game at Wolves (15:00).
- 22AmpaduBooked at 90mins
- 14BurkeSubstituted forBrewsterat 64′minutes
- 17McGoldrickSubstituted forMcBurnieat 64′minutesSubstituted forMoussetat 83′minutes
- 22MaríBooked at 80mins
- 7SakaSubstituted forWillianat 69′minutes
- 35MartinelliSubstituted forElnenyat 83′minutes
- 9LacazetteSubstituted forNketiahat 89′minutes
- 17Cédric Soares
- Peter Bankes
Match ends, Sheffield United 0, Arsenal 3.
Second Half ends, Sheffield United 0, Arsenal 3.
Ethan Ampadu (Sheffield United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Ethan Ampadu (Sheffield United).
Foul by Rob Holding (Arsenal).
Lys Mousset (Sheffield United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal).
Enda Stevens (Sheffield United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Arsenal. Eddie Nketiah replaces Alexandre Lacazette.
Attempt missed. Lys Mousset (Sheffield United) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Enda Stevens.
Goal! Sheffield United 0, Arsenal 3. Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Thomas Partey with a through ball.
Substitution, Arsenal. Mohamed Elneny replaces Gabriel Martinelli.
Substitution, Sheffield United. Lys Mousset replaces Oliver McBurnie because of an injury.
Pablo Marí (Arsenal) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Offside, Sheffield United. Ben Osborn tries a through ball, but George Baldock is caught offside.
Attempt blocked. Rhian Brewster (Sheffield United) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by John Fleck.
Attempt blocked. Willian (Arsenal) right footed shot from a difficult angle and long range on the left is blocked.
Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Ethan Ampadu (Sheffield United).