Gunners wary of hostile atmosphere at Blades

LONDON • Desperately unlucky to lose to Liverpool in their last Premier League home game, Sheffield United are quietly optimistic as Arsenal travel north today.

Only a rare mistake on the part of goalkeeper Dean Henderson meant they did not pick up a point and defender George Baldock feels their 12th man can again make a difference as they host the Gunners.

He said: "I love playing at Bramall Lane - the fans are different class. There's such a connection with the manager (Chris Wilder) and the captain (Billy Sharp), and it feels like we all have one aim to achieve things together. It's brilliant to play in that atmosphere."

And with the Gunners' record in Sheffield particularly poor, Unai Emery knows that his players have to show character to deal with the "big atmosphere".

They have not beaten the Blades in four league away meetings and with the hosts resolute at the back - they have not lost by more than a goal in their three league defeats - the Arsenal manager admitted he was expecting a "very difficult" game.

The Spaniard said: "They were in Premier League and lost that (status) in 2007, but they came back (this season) with big motivation.

"The manager's career with that team is amazing and how they are playing is the same (way) as they played in the Championship, with big confidence, good players and their style is to be offensive.

"For us, we need to respect (them) first and then, we need to prepare, to use our game plan, quality and skills. We need to be very competitive in the 90 minutes."

Arsenal have been boosted by the return of France striker Alexandre Lacazette, who missed seven games owing to an ankle injury.

Emery also confirmed full-back Kieran Tierney is in line for his first league start, with fellow defender David Luiz telling Sky Sports their much maligned backline would stand up to the test against Wilder's men.

Arsenal have kept only two clean sheets and conceded 11 goals in eight league games, but the Brazil international insisted "the last few games have showed that we are stronger".

"We are going to try and improve, we are already doing well," Luiz said. "We want to finish this season fighting for the title."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2019, with the headline 'Gunners wary of hostile atmosphere at Blades'. Print Edition | Subscribe