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Arsenal’s hammering of Sheffield United the biggest Premier League mismatch in memory

Arsenal players celebrate/Arsenal inflict utter humiliation – no wonder some fans left after 16 minutes
Ben White scored Arsenal's sixth with his weaker left foot - AP/Rui Vieira

In the 58th minute Arsenal scored their 10,000th goal. No, not in this game alone – although it almost felt like that as they rained in amid the dank Yorkshire drizzle – but in their illustrious 138-history.

This was probably the most one-sided game the Premier League has ever seen and the only surprise was that Arsenal scored just once in the second half, with the landmark reached through a fine strike by Ben White. It was certainly the biggest mismatch in memory.

There have been greater margins of defeat – the two 9-0s suffered by Southampton spring to mind – but never, really, a game where the difference was so vast. Especially from the start.

By the end Arsenal defender William Saliba had completed 169 passes – 27 more than the entire Sheffield United team. Arsenal had 81 per cent possession. Where did that 19 per cent for United come from? Maybe it was from restarts.

Southampton’s losses felt a little freakish. The final scoreline here hugely flattered United who have sadly thrown in the towel for this season. And it was also a ruthless statement of intent from Arsenal.

Almost as significant as the points tally was the goals tally. They are two points behind leaders Liverpool, a point in arrears of Manchester City, who play each other on Sunday, but now possess a far superior goal difference.

Gabriel Martinelli of Arsenal celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's third goal during the Premier League match between Sheffield United and Arsenal FC at Bramall Lane on March 04, 2024 in Sheffield, England
Arsenal had an enjoyable time in Sheffield - Danehouse/James Gill

Arsenal could be top if they beat Brentford at home the day before that momentous Anfield meeting and are already 10 goals better off than City and six ahead of Liverpool. In what is unfolding as a tight title race that could, maybe, prove to be crucial.

For now Arsenal can just keep winning and this was their seventh in a row in the league with an aggregate of 31 goals for and three against, which is simply phenomenal. As bad as the hosts were, and they were very, very bad, Arsenal were awesomely devastating at times with the peerless Declan Rice almost untouchable in midfield. The only minor concern was Gabriel Martinelli hobbling off with a cut foot.

Records tumbled and United collapsed to become the first top-flight team to concede five or more goals in four consecutive home games. But this one will go down as one of the worst. The one where they appeared to give up and give in even if they did not concede eight as they did at home to Newcastle United earlier in this campaign.

The first 25 minutes were as bad as it could possibly be. What were manager Chris Wilder’s final words to his team before they left the changing room? They certainly did not include ‘capitulate’. But that is what they did. It was embarrassing. It was men against boys, especially when Rice was involved.

A day after Pep Guardiola hailed Phil Foden as the best player in the Premier League, here was another young English tyro being utterly dominant. Rice is the £105 million signing who is justifying that fee – and that is some claim. It is five goals and five assists for him now in the league, his best return. But more than that, it is his ability to win ball and retain possession and build pressure that is so powerful.

It was gone in 15 minutes. It was humiliating by 25 minutes. It was six goals inside the hour and the only shock after that was that there was no more. If there had been, Arsenal could have recorded the biggest-ever win in their history, which currently stands at 7-0 against Standard Liege in 1993.

Ben Osborn of Sheffield United stands dejected during the Premier League match between Sheffield United and Arsenal FC at Bramall Lane on March 4, 2024 in Sheffield, England.
Sheffield United's already poor form has disintegrated into a series of hammerings - Getty Images/Daniel Chesterton

Understandably Mikel Arteta made a raft of changes long before the end, including the return of Thomas Partey for his first appearance since early October and how the manager will have delighted at the cutting edge his team showed to get themselves into that comfortable position.

By contrast Wilder got it all wrong. He started with a 4-5-1 formation but went to 5-4-1 after the third goal with midfielder Oliver Norwood suffering the ignominy of being substituted so early. Wilder was left forlornly with his arms out wide. He looked as lost as his team and the home fans left in droves with those remaining booing when five minutes of added time were shown at the end of the first half. Show mercy was their message.

And the goals? Bukayo Saka had already struck the crossbar and Martinelli had a shot cleared off the line before Rice pulled the ball back for Martin Odegaard to sweep home. The dam burst and the flood came.

Bukayo Saka of Arsenal crosses in the ball which takes a deflection from Jayden Bogle of Sheffield United to give Arsenal their second goal during the Premier League match between Sheffield United and Arsenal FC at Bramall Lane on March 04, 2024 in Sheffield, England
Bukayo Saka was, as ever, a threat - Getty Images/David Rogers

Saka surged past former Arsenal defender Auston Trusty far too easily – he would later do the same to Ben Osborn – with his cross rebounding off Jayden Bogle and into the net. It summed it up. Soon after Martinelli scored and then he dispossessed the hapless Anel Ahmedhodzic for Kai Havertz to drive in an angled shot.

There was a marvellous little show of defiance as the United supporters argued that Rice was taking a corner outside of the D. It must have felt like a small victory as referee Sam Barrott made him move the ball. Unfortunately for them, Rice then scored from another Saka cut-back. Oh dear.

And the record goal? It was worthy of that achievement with White teed up by Havertz and finding the net with a fierce, first-time shot into the corner. It was no consolation for United that Arsenal did not score again with the home stands almost as desolate as their hopes of staying up.


Sheff Utd 0 Arsenal 6: as it happened


10:46 PM GMT

That’ll do it for the blog

Congratulations to Arsenal, hard lines to Sheffield United. Thanks for following the blog with us.

Nice little titbit from Thierry Henry who explains how his left leg naturally points forward but his right splays out. “That’s why I have the curve” he explains, about his trademark right foot finish into the far corern from the inside left channel. “Work is a talent. I saw the game with my brain not my eyes.”


10:36 PM GMT

Chris Wilder talks to Sky Sports

“We’ve got to dust ourselves down and go again on Saturday.

“I understand supporters leaving, but the noise at the end was amazing.

“The boys are a damaged group of players, they have had some bad defeats and they are hurting.

“There were some disappointing performances all over the park and if you are not at your level you are going to get punished. We could not lay a glove on them.

“You have to be on your level because these top teams can take you are apart.

“Game lost because we made elementary mistakes, not to do with motivation. It looks like you are not trying but the boys are hurting.”


10:30 PM GMT

Mikel Arteta talks to Sky Sports

“I loved the way the team played.

“The quality that we showed and the aggression with and without the ball. We were worried, this is a team that has done well against us.

“We have to continue to do well. Happy to get players back. Maintaining the momentum. We enjoy today but tomorrow it is Brentford, and Brentford and Brentford.”

(Think he’s speaking to the relentless nature of the league and not suggesting a glitch in the fixture computer).

“The fact that some many are scoring gives threat and confidence.

“Bukayo was feeling sick and he wasn’t feeling right so we decided to take him off. With Gabby Martinelli, it is just a slight cut, we’ll have to see how he is.”


10:23 PM GMT

Jamie Carragher

“It was a disgrace, one of the most one-sided games I have ever seen.”

The Telegraph Sport columnist also shares a joke with Martin Odegaard (About celebration policing).

“It was a great performance from you today … but I didn’t see the photographer on the pitch?”

“I was waiting for that!” says Ødegaard.

“No, I was too scared to do it. I went inside today.”


10:22 PM GMT

Thierry Henry

“When Ben White is scoring a goal like that, you know we are having a good night.”


10:09 PM GMT

Martin Odegaard talks to Sky Sports

“A tough place to come. We took control of the game from the start. We were in a good mood today. A solid, nice performance.

“We wanted to keep the momentum up. It can be tricky coming to places like this if you don’t start well.”

“You can talk about the work we do in front of the goal but we are proud of the work we do in defending without the ball, all the way from the front.”


10:08 PM GMT

Here’s the Ben White goal


10:07 PM GMT

The other bonuses

for Arsenal would be the return to action of Gabriel Jesus and Thomas Partey.


09:57 PM GMT

Full time: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 6

Six different names on the scoresheet, five Gunners and an own goal.

Mike McGrath: “Final whistle goes and there must by more than 50% of the home fans gone early. It ended up 6-0 but could have been much much worse. Gabriel Martinelli’s injury the only negative for Arsenal. He could not put weight on his right foot. Jeers for the hosts at the end from those left.”

Sheffield United's Vinicius Souza, left, Jack Robinson, center, and George Baldock
Tough night at the office: Sheffield United's Vinicius Souza, left, Jack Robinson, center, and George Baldock - AP

09:56 PM GMT

90 mins: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 6

Sheffield United have managed to concede just the one this half. Well done lads, take the rest of the night off. Oh, you have.

The ref has seen enough. Let the inquest begin.


09:49 PM GMT

87 mins: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 6

Partey gives the ball to Jesus, these two lesser-spotted players nearly fashion a goal. Great dancing feet from Jesus. But he cannot quite wriggle through.


09:45 PM GMT

82 mins: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 6

Bogle comes forward and tries to curl one with the outside of his boot but instead has blootered the ball, toe-poke style, miles wide.


09:39 PM GMT

77 mins: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 6

Still nearly 20 minutes to go if you include injury time. But Sheffield United have probably avoided breaking the nine goal defeat record. Indeed, it’s only 1-0 in this half.


09:34 PM GMT

73 mins: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 6

Trossard replaces Rice.


09:30 PM GMT

69 mins: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 6

Arsenal subs: Gabriel Jesus, Thomas Partey and Cedric Soares come on. White, Jorginho, Martinelli off.


09:29 PM GMT

67 mins: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 6

Vaguely passive-aggressive feel to Wilder’s subs tonight: Anel Ahmedhodzic is replaced by Oliver Arblaster.

Ahmedhodzic is the skipper. Arblaster is making his debut.


09:25 PM GMT

62 mins: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 6

A few changes. One potentially the only fly in the oinkment for the Gooners: Martinelli is hobbling off.

Martinelli
Martinelli off - Action Images via Reuters

09:19 PM GMT

GOAL! Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 6 (White 56)

Everyone’s gone to the moon: here’s Ben White getting a rare goal. Havertz with an excellent run and a nice wee cut back, Ben White wellies it with his left peg and that’s six.

Mike McGrath: “Ben White scores the 10,000 goal in Arsenal’s history. He curls in from the edge of the area to make it 6-0. If this was boxing, the referee would have called it off long ago.”

Ben White
Ben White - Reuters

09:15 PM GMT

50 mins: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 5

Saka came off at half time, scuppering many “to score any time” punts I shouldn’t wonder.

Rice hits the target with a low free kick but it’s easy for the keeper.

Vieira with some proper pace down the right in the Saka stylee, decent cross but Martinelli cannot apply the finish.


09:07 PM GMT

46 mins: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 5

We are back underway, not for long though as Baldock - on as a sub - flicks an arm into the face (eye?) of Martinelli who is down and needing treatment.

Baldock is one of three HT subs by Wilder, alongside Brooks and Osula.

McAtee, Davies and McBurnie the lucky men who get the hook.


09:06 PM GMT

Jamie Carragher

“I cannot think of anything worse I have ever seen than this SU performance.”


09:06 PM GMT

Name the team to score ten away from home in a League match

.... Sheffield United. Back in the 19th century. (Dave Jones on Sky with the stat)


09:04 PM GMT

Blimey

what a walloping. I’ve had a terrible day, lowlights of which included having to call out not one but TWO plumbers but I reckon I’m in a better mood than Chris Wilder.


08:59 PM GMT

Records ahoy

There have been four 9-0s in the Premier League. Man U thumped Ipswich by nine in 1995.. in fact, that was on the 4th March I can now see.


08:53 PM GMT

Football needs a mercy rule

Shame that Sheffield United don’t have a cornerman to chuck the towel in.


08:51 PM GMT

Half time: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 5

The half time whistle, as you might imagine, brings some boos but not as many as you might think. Resignation would appear to be the name of the game.

Over to Mike McGrath: “Chris Wilder heads straight down the tunnel. Boos ring around Bramall Lane from those fans left at the ground. It is emptying out.”


08:50 PM GMT

Rice joins in

Declan Rice celebrates
Declan Rice celebrates

Picture editor Lee Martin writes: “Rice! Keep up boy, it’s five. Stay behind for extra maths.”

Can Sheffield United somehow cling on until half time?

Mike McGrath: “Barring one of the greatest comebacks of all time, Arsenal will become the first English league club to win three straight away wins by five or more goals. Boos around the ground when the fourth official indicates five minutes of stoppage time.”

Back to Lee: “This chap below’s got it.”

Five fingered salute
Five fingered salute - Reuters

08:46 PM GMT

43 mins: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 5

Mike McGrath: “Blades will become the first team in English history to lose four consecutive home games by five or more goals.....unless they score themselves that is.”


08:44 PM GMT

41 mins: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 5

Five names on the score sheet so far, Saka must be upset that he is not one of them, he’s tried a wild shot over. About the only blip on perfection so far this half for the Gooners..


08:41 PM GMT

GOAL! Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 5 (Rice 39)

The Basmati Busquets is the latest Arsenal man to find the net. It’s exhibition stuff - and for Sheff Utd fans, it’s the Chamber of Horrors.

Declan Rice strokes it home after a lovely passing move, it is five, and the only question now is how many. Well, that was already the question. We might be looking at a Bon Accord situation...


08:31 PM GMT

28 mins: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 4

Sheffield United exploring new ways to get crushed, as Fogle comes within a fairly generous VAR reading of adding a red card to his own goal. Martin Odegaard the man he chops down from behind.

Blades fans leaving
This pic was ten minutes ago! Blades fans were leaving by 18 mins - Getty

08:28 PM GMT

GOAL! Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 4 (Havertz 25)

Oh God, it gets worse. Poor Sheffield United. It’s Kai Havertz, it’s four.

Rare foray forward from Sheffield United, Anel Ahmedhodzic loses out and here comes Arsenal again. Arsenal break, Kai Havertz the latest to buff up his scoring stats with an easy finish.

Kai Havertz
Kai Havertz - AFP via Getty Images

08:26 PM GMT

18 mins: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 3

Mike McGrath writes: “Wilder has gone five at the back to try and stop the goals coming. Norwood did not make a fuss when he was taken off - but it was harsh on the only player looking to rally his team-mates. Osborn comes on as a wing-back against Bukayo Saka, with Auston Trusty moving inside as a third centre-back.”

Oliver Norwood of Sheffield United gets substituted by Chris Wilder
Night to forget: Oliver Norwood of Sheffield United gets substituted by Chris Wilder - Getty

08:18 PM GMT

16 mins: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 3

Flashy, rather cruel SUBSTITUTION from Chris Wilder. He’s taken off a player: Norwood off, Osborn on.

Sheffield had tried a back four, and it has been a complete disaster, so they will now have a go at a back five.

Some Blades fans have already seen enough and are leaving.

Mike McGrath writes: “VAR is checking the third goal and Blades are making a change. Norwood off for Ben Osborn.”


08:17 PM GMT

GOAL! Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 3 (Martinelli 15)

Oof we might be witnessing something here. Martinelli gallops down the left, exchanges passes with Kiwior, gets it back and thumps it home. Dearie me. Sheffield United looked like they were playing with nine men there. Martinelli just purring through into the great wide open there.

Mike McGrath writes: “Again, Blades players were not acknowledging each other when the second goal went in. Oli Norwood tried to tell them to calm down and keep the ball. But Arsenal are 3-0 up with their next move.”

Gabriel Martinelli makes it three
Gabriel Martinelli makes it three - AFP via Getty

08:14 PM GMT

GOAL! Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 2 (Bogle 13 og)

“I’m not sure what the left back is trying to do - he has shown Saka down the line but Saka has got the pace to get away.” Saka crosses, and there’s an own goal.

Bogle the unfortunate man who puts into his own net.

Sheffield United's Jayden Bogle gets in a proper tangle for an own goal
Sheffield United's Jayden Bogle gets in a proper tangle for an own goal - PA

Looks like his pelvis is on the wrong way round, poor lad.


08:06 PM GMT

GOAL! Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 1 (Odegaard 5)

Any worries Arsenal may have had will have been allayed by that, Odegaard has put them ahead.

Martinelli finds Rice, Declan gets to the byline, crossed for Odegaard, who helps himself from about 12 yards. Just too easy. Where was the marking?

Mike McGrath writes: “Arsenal are 1-0 up with Martin Odegaard scoring after 4mins 23 seconds. Nothing odd there. But their set-piece routine from a corner was totally out of the blue. Three players positioned at the other end of the penalty area near the goalline. England had the “Love Train” at the World Cup but this was something new. Their set-piece coach was in the technical area for the move. Worryingly for Blades, they were barely talking to each other as Arsenal celebrated Odegaard’s goal. At least last weekend against Wolves they were fighting among themselves. This could be a long night for them.”

Martin Odegaard opens the scoring
1-0 up after five minutes - and to be fair the first goal has been coming - AFP Getty

08:03 PM GMT

2 mins: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 0

Arsenal open Sheffield United up right away. Saka with a one-two down the right, a decent low cross that picks out Rice, he cannot put it away, the deflection pops out to Saka who lashes a hard shot - hits the bar! Another Arsenal man follows up and Sheffield United eventually, desperately hack the ball clear.


08:01 PM GMT

1 mins: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 0

The home side making a busy start down the right but lose it.

Mike McGrath writes: “Chris Wilder’s red-and-white wizards is how Blades are introduced when they walk out the tunnel. Oli McBurnie is back in their team and leading the attack in place of Rhian Brewster. Yasser Larouci is replaced by Tom Davies. Jeers for Aaron Ramsdale from the Blades fans. Their former player is on the bench for Arsenal.”


08:00 PM GMT

The Sheffield United guys huddle up

Arsenal, in an absolutely reprehensible green strip, will kick off.

Mike McGrath writes: “We Took Pelham by Deadly Avenger is playing at Bramall Lane, which means the teams are almost ready to come out. The talk on the radio before kick-off has been how many Arsenal will score and whether they will boost their goal difference. They are unchanged from the team that defeated Newcastle when they scored four.”


07:56 PM GMT

The players are in the tunnel

Looks a good atmos there.


07:56 PM GMT

That massive UFC lad Ngannou

who is fighting AJ, has got a recorded a message for Henry: “Titi. I hope you are not friends with AJ”. Thierry: “he says he is going to take AJ’s soul.” Will you be watching? If AJ can’t beat this guy that’s that, right?


07:51 PM GMT

Set pieces


07:34 PM GMT

Henry very enjoyable as a pundit

better on the technical stuff than the vibes stuff, I would say. Interesting stuff about Haaland and his movement.


07:30 PM GMT

And a bit more from Mik

On Sheffield United: “They have made some changes, sometimes it happens during matches and we have to be adaptable on the day.

“It’s difficult, but you must be able to train as well.”

On the title race: “You watch the games and at the moment I am hoping for results.

“The thing is we must continue the way we are doing and win football matches - we will see where it takes us.

“At the moment you have to win every single game and earn the right to win.”


07:30 PM GMT

Bit more from the home boss

“It can’t just be one way. We talked about that when we first walked in and the Liverpool one was the key one, we had to get that balance right. We can’t just sit back for 95 minutes.

“They’re massively in the title race, we understand that, but we’re trying to dress it up as a cup match for us, an FA Cup tie. And I’ve said to the players if it was an FA Cup tie you’d have nothing to lose, let’s go for it and give a good account of ourselves and put in a positive performance.”


07:08 PM GMT

Chris Wilder to Sky Sports

“Whatever happens with points deductions, your job as a professional footballer and manager is to keep going right to the end.

“We want to give our supporters something to shout about.

“Tom Davies and McBurnier give us Premier League experience, they have won on nights like this.”

Arteta has been very complimentary about you in the build up.

“Has he been on the red wine?! We are playing against one of the best teams in the land, individually and collectively, and Mikel has done a great job. I appreciate his kind words.”


07:03 PM GMT

Arteta speaks to Sky

“I was tempted to change the side, the players give me lots of reasons to do that every day in training.

“Our consistency, aggression and defence has pleased me. We have to be patient against teams that play the low block.”

“We have to win every game now.”


07:01 PM GMT

Teams

Arsenal are unchanged. “Previously Arteta might have left Jorginho out against a team like Sheffield United, no disrespect, but continuity is important at this stage of the season,” says T Henry.

Sheff Utd: Grbic, Bogle, Ahmedhodzic, Trusty, Robinson, McAtee, Norwood, Vinicius Souza, Tom Davies, Hamer, McBurnie. Subs: Baldock, Brereton, Foderingham, Osborn, Arblaster, Larouci, Osula, Brooks, Peck.

Arsenal: Raya, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Kiwior, Odegaard, Jorginho, Rice, Saka, Havertz, Martinelli. Subs: Ramsdale, Partey, Gabriel Jesus, Smith Rowe, Nketiah, Cedric, Trossard, Vieira, Nelson.

Referee: Sam Barrott (West Yorkshire)


06:57 PM GMT

Thierry Henry on Ollie Watkins

“We all know that he can score, can you assist? It impresses me that he has got ten assists.”


06:38 PM GMT

Always a little thrill these

days, wondering who will be the Monday Night Football guest. Which job-hunting manager will be putting themselves in the shop windae? Much better than that - it’s Thierry Henry!


06:16 PM GMT

Arsenal need to keep the pressure on

Arsenal travel north to Sheffield this evening five points behind Manchester City, with this here fixture representing their game in hand. City are five points ahead and the way they toyed with and dispatched Man United will have put their rivals on notice that anything less than perfection from here on in might not be enough. With Liverpool hosting City this weekend, one or both of them obviously is going to drop points and Arsenal simply have to stay on the shoulder of the front two. A fixture against basement club Sheffield United, albeit away from home, should do the trick nicely.

Arsenal’s last three fixtures against Sheffield United have been wins, and by an aggregate score of 10-1. A few years ago, it’s the sort of trip to the unfashionable bits of the Premier League that might have seen the Gunners outfought and outmuscled but it would be a very optimistic Blade who predicted anything other than an away win tonight. They have let in 66 goals already this term, only Ipswich (1963-1964) had a leakier defence after 26 games. They have lost four of their last five league matches, Arsenal have won four on the road, and Bukayo Saka is on fire: he’s scored five in five.

It all adds up to a home defeat but football is not played on spreadsheets and you just never know. Chris Wilder, for one, is not letting pessimism eat a sandwich in his general direction and he has said:

“Even against Brighton we were really competitive. We just got done at the end, down to 10 men and with a bit of fatigue.

“Of course that’s got to be what underpins your football club and that has always been what underpins your football club; a fighting spirit and a little bit of a ‘them against us’ mentality.

“Any situation is always a level of pride and responsibility to the football club and the supporters, so we have to show that right the way through.

“And we will do for the integrity of the division as well - we’ll go right to the end.”

Good to hear. We will hear which 11 men he sends over the white line to stick it to Arteta’s boys soon enough. Teams at 7pm and then the kick off is at 8pm.