And so to the match, the Blades were looking for their first Premiership win and Arsenal were looking for their first League win at Ashburton. With both Henry and Van Persie back the latter seemed a distinct possibility. Sheffield United came into this game with a lot of injuries but most of the players concerned wouldn't have featured in today's line-up had they been fit. Despite the match being between the 11th and 20th placed teams only three points separated the two teams so nothing should have been taken for granted and nothing was.
Adebayor deserved to start and he did and just as at Old Trafford he made some great runs, it was just that before the break Arsenal never really got going. United hustled and bustled without really threatening and we seemed to have a mental block and were seemingly concerned about once again conceding a first goal rather than throwing the kitchen sink. Twice Alan Wright chopped down Freddie, but Wiley only awarded free kicks, one of which saw the ever maturing Djourou head it on to Henry who tried the bicycle kick. Our best chance of the half fell to Gallas with Tomas playing a ball inside to the advancing Bill who fired past the side netting. He certainly enjoys getting forward. Sommeil fouled Adebayor off the ball. ‘Stand up if you hate Tottenham' was countered with ‘Stand up if you hate Cockneys'. When northerners are abusive does it count as a racist chant by foreigners?
Cesc to Adebayor who won a corner while being held, the corner was cleared and sliced away for a throw by Leigertwood as the crowd spotted Dennis in his box and gave him a song. He waved. A great Kolo run and cross was met with a header by Henry at the far post but Bennett pulled off a fine save. As Marion said ‘Henry never scores with his head'. Freddie was chopped again by Wright which was fine by Alan Wiley. Arsenal were pressing but in a frustrating sort of way. Tomas did brilliantly and nearly put Freddie in. It's great to see how quickly Rosicky has settled down into our style. ‘You'll never play here again'. Armstrong who was niggly little chap all game took a shot at the corner flag. Hulse's best trick was to dive and he's not very good at that. Henry drove into their box but it was hoofed clear. The Blades gave it a go but seem to be lacking a cutting edge, I can't see who will score for them in the Premiership.
As ever Arsenal were pinging it around their box without any real result. Henry to Rosicky, to Adebayor and back to Rosicky and we were almost in. Kazim-Richards, who for my money was their man most likely to, took a turn to trip Freddie. Cesc was then booked for what looked like a 50-50 challenge. A wild challenge by Henry got some words of wisdom from the mighty Alan Wiley, well I say mighty but I might just mean useless prick.
Freddie rode four tackles to get the crowd going but somehow we couldn't get the team going. There was a big mental block hovering over Ashburton it seemed. Armstrong flattened Cesc and yet won a free kick. A Cesc run was followed by an Adebayor shot that was deflected for a corner but might have gone anywhere. Henry's corner was headed wide by Gilberto, but at least we were winning balls in the air, was this the famous plan B at long last?
After the break we tore into them and battered away until the inevitable happened. Hulse chopped Djourou on a good run and was deservedly booked. So long as Wiley could assist United getting men behind the ball he was happy, especially when he bought play back when we had an advantage. Kolo had a run, shortly followed by more play in their half that saw him fire a rocket wide of the post. There was a lot of pressure on the back peddling black and white stripped shirts by now and timewasting seemed to be their plan B. Freddie won a corner after a good run despite being held back. Tomas's corner was headed well by Freddie but Bennett tipped the ball over for another corner. Good save.
Great run by Henry who now started to play more like his old self. A fast break by Adebayor and Rosicky down our left. Hulse shot well wide at the other end.
Gallas made an error in midfield but Djourou recovered the situation with aplomb. A Freddie shot. Henry seemingly chopped and nothing given while Eboue picked up a yellow at the other end. On about 65 minutes Henry was outside their box and flicked a ball over the top for Cesc to run onto. Fabregas got the first touch and while it was still in the air Bill slammed it into the roof of the net. He enjoyed that, so did we and the first rendition of ‘1-0 to the Arsenal' rang out at Ashburton. Arsenal then proceeded to pass Sheffield to death. If they wanted to have the ball they had to come and get it, but they couldn't. ‘Are you watching Ashley Cole'. Henry started to fire and made a run down the left and drilled in a cross which Jagielka kindly diverted into his own net. 2-0 to Arsenal and game over. ‘You're not singing any more'.
Good move, poor cross by Eboue. Van Persie and Hleb replaced Adebayor and Rosicky. Both had played well but Adebayor took the biggest cheers as he left the pitch. Arsenal broke but Wiley called it back for an Arsenal free kick, the tosser. Henry to Freddie who fired low into the corner but Bennett saved well. A fine and rare cross by Sheffield, from Kazim-Richards as it happens. Freddie was replaced by the Beast, as Sommiel and Geary were replaced by Kozluk and Quinn.
Our third was a beautiful if somewhat unusual goal for the Arsenal. Eboue powered down the right flank and hit the perfect bending cross to the far post where Henry headed home on the run to make it 3-0. There was more fine play as with a Hleb, Henry, Gallas move. Then there was a whole load of one-twos played by Djourou on a fine charge, which finally saw Van Persie win yet another corner. Kolo headed clear a United free kick. There was a peach of a ball from Robin to Titi before Quinn kicked Djourou. All that remained was for Lehamnn to make a fine late save from a good header by Kabba who had replaced Kazim-Richards with a minute of normal time remaining. A good result at home at last.
Today also happened to be Neil Warnock's 1000th game as a league manager. I think he's a nutter, but a likeable nutter because he wears his heart on his sleeve. "I am unique. I think I bring laughter, I make people smile and my teams give value for money, home and away." I'm not sure about that because I don't follow the Blades every week, but I do know that he said watching Arsenal against Manure last week was like watching a Rolls-Royce. So what's it like being run over by a Rolls-Royce Neil?