Match ends, Arsenal 1, Sheffield United 1.
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder urged his players to "turn a really good story into a fantastic one" after his side's outstanding first season back in the Premier League continued with a draw at Arsenal.
The Blades were in League One when Wilder took charge three-and-a-half years ago but are now in contention for European football after a fine start to the campaign.
The Blades were typically organised and threatening throughout but looked set for defeat when 18-year-old Gabriel Martinelli steered in an opener for the hosts.
Wilder's attacking substitutions were rewarded when John Fleck hit a deflected shot into the far corner to keep the Blades four points clear of the Gunners.
"We have a group who challenge each other and wants to attack every game in every division," Wilder said.
"They have shown that attitude for a long time. We haven't been unbelievably backed financially. It's a really good story, ours, the players and where they have come from.
"We have to turn that really good story into a fantastic one by keeping the hammer down."
Plenty to do for Arteta
While Wilder said his side turned in "one of our poorest performances" at the Emirates they were still good value for a draw.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was facing a stacked in-tray for his first job in management and the Spaniard has now overseen one win in his first five league games in charge.
Without suspended captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the Gunners were always likely to be lacking a goal threat. After all, the Gabon forward had scored 48% of their league goals this season.
But Alexandre Lacazette - his replacement as skipper - is hardly a novice, and with Mesut Ozil and Pepe in support the Gunners could still boast a £160m strikeforce.
But it was Martinelli, just 18 and making his fourth league start, who was the pick.
He volleyed wide from a smart Pepe cross, shot into the side-netting after more quick feet from the winger, and then gambled to convert the opener after makeshift left-back Bukayo Saka saw his cross loop up into the goalmouth.
The watching Aubameyang was moved to declare him a "superstar" in waiting in a post on social media.
Arteta could point to his side having over 60% of the possession, but Blades keeper Dean Henderson was largely untroubled - making just three saves.
"I'm very disappointed, the performance deserved three points," he said.
"It is two points lost but if you don't put games to bed in the last 10 minutes that can happen. There is a history of that, 1-0 up is never enough, be careful as anything can happen.
"They tried to do their best before, I inherited a team in a difficult situation. In the second half they didn't create much apart from the goal, a long ball and someone from an incredible angle puts it in the top corner."
Blades bouncing again
If Arsenal's expensively assembled attack failed to add much spark, it was the other end of the pitch which showed where work is needed in this and future transfer windows.
Alarm bells were ringing for some Gunners fans with the arrival of the teamsheets. Two wingers, a perennial scapegoat and David Luiz made up a back four of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Saka, Shkodran Mustafi and the Brazil centre-back.
Arteta brought on Eddie Nketiah to a hero's reception, but the hosts' only shot on target in the second half was a tame header in stoppage time.
Not even the video assistant referee could come to the rescue as the cameras backed Mike Dean's decision to not award a penalty when Pepe went down after a driving run down the right. Arteta called it a "very clear" spot-kick, but the frustration felt by the forward summed up the Gunners' second-half showing.
The Blades had not won at Arsenal since August 1971, but they have hardly done anything but win since Wilder took charge in the summer of 2016, and they arrived at Emirates Stadium in confident mood.
In contrast to Arteta's side - who at times looked as makeshift and thrown together as they are at the moment - this United side are absolute in their positional play. Every player knows where they need to be at all times and they grew in stature as the game wore on.
Lys Mousset wasted a good early headed chance, Oli McBurnie should have done better when his miscued header was cleared off the line, and the club record signing then had another good chance well charged down.
Wilder introduced forwards Billy Sharp and Callum Robinson and was rewarded for his positive intent when Robinson's cross was nodded on by Sharp for the arriving Fleck. The midfielder had plenty to do but controlled his strike nicely, hitting down into the deck and seeing the bounce carry the ball past the dive of Bernd Leno.
"We don't do targets, we don't look at blocks of games, you can't in this division," Wilder added.
"Everyone has upped their standards, we talked in pre season about reacting to losing games of football because as a group we have been used to winning. It's one point to add to the 32 we had already and it's a valuable one. We keep on rolling on.
"I didn't think we were anywhere near our best and the result is better than the performance. If you can get a result when you're not playing well that's a good sign."
Man of the match - Enda Stevens (Sheffield United)
Arsenal the draw specialists - the stats
- Arsenal have dropped 13 points from winning positions in the Premier League this season, as many as they did in the whole of 2018-19.
- Sheffield United have won 16 away points this season, their joint highest tally on the road in a Premier League campaign (also 1992-93).
- Arsenal have drawn more games than any other side in this term's top flight (11), with the Gunners last drawing more in a single season in 2008-09 (12).
- The Gunners managed just one shot on target following their goal, with that effort coming from defender Mustafi in the 90th minute.
- At 18 years and 214 days, Martinelli became the second-youngest player to score a Premier League goal for Arsenal at the Emirates, after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain against Blackburn in February 2012 (18 years 173 days).
- Fleck's goal was his seventh goal involvement for Sheffield United in the league this season (five goals, two assists), but his first away from home.
Tough Premier League games for both.
It is a short trip across the capital to Chelsea for Arsenal on Tuesday, 21 January (20:15 GMT), while Sheffield United host champions Manchester City on the same evening (19:30).
- 23David Luiz
- 34XhakaBooked at 90mins
- 9LacazetteSubstituted forNketiahat 74'minutes
- 6BashamSubstituted forBesicat 76'minutes
- 2BaldockBooked at 51mins
- 7LundstramSubstituted forRobinsonat 67'minutes
- 16NorwoodBooked at 4mins
- 22MoussetSubstituted forSharpat 56'minutes
- Mike Dean
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Arsenal 1, Sheffield United 1.
Attempt saved. Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) header from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Mesut Özil with a cross.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by John Egan.
Attempt saved. Muhamed Besic (Sheffield United) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner.
Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Granit Xhaka (Arsenal).
George Baldock (Sheffield United) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Attempt blocked. John Fleck (Sheffield United) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Attempt blocked. Oliver McBurnie (Sheffield United) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Callum Robinson with a cross.
Hand ball by Bukayo Saka (Arsenal).
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by John Egan.
Lucas Torreira (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by John Egan (Sheffield United).
Foul by David Luiz (Arsenal).
Oliver McBurnie (Sheffield United) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Goal! Arsenal 1, Sheffield United 1. John Fleck (Sheffield United) left footed shot from the left side of the box to the top right corner.
Attempt saved. Oliver McBurnie (Sheffield United) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Oliver Norwood with a cross.
Corner, Sheffield United. Conceded by Shkodran Mustafi.
Attempt blocked. Nicolas Pépé (Arsenal) left footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Eddie Nketiah.