Arsenal cruised to an impressive 5-0 victory over Sheffield United thanks to a superb hat-trick from Eddie Nketiah.
Following an away victory against Sevilla in the Champions League midweek, the Gunners eased past the blades with a rotated squad.
The opening stages of the first half were fairly uneventful as the away side effectively stifled the Arsenal attack. However, a sublime pass from Declan Rice was met with an even better first touch by Nketiah, who then calmly slotted home to make it one nil. From that point onwards, Arsenal were in total control.
Four second-half goals, including two more from Nketiah to complete his first-ever Premier League hat-trick, were enough to see Arsenal record an expected victory.
3 positives and negatives from Sheffield United thrashing
Positive #1: Eddie Nketiah steps up
With Gabriel Jesus sidelined, there was a lot of responsibility on Nketiah to step up and demonstrate he has what it takes to be an integral part of a potential title-winning side.
A hat-trick, including two very impressive finishes, suggests that he certainly does have the ability needed to do so. After the game, Arteta was keen to reiterate that he believes the forward is a “top-level” player, saying:
"“Well to me he is top level. He’s started nine out of our ten Premier League games, so that tells you how much we trust him and the importance he has in the team. I’m really happy for him, an academy player to experience a Premier League hat-trick. He needs to enjoy the moment, he fully deserves it, and hopefully there are many more to come.”"
The question remaining for Nketiah now is whether the 24-year-old can maintain this level, or one very close to it, for an extended period.
Negative #1: Lack of impact from Emile Smith Rowe
I am a big fan of Smith Rowe’s. When he’s playing at his best, he is one of my favourite players to watch in the entire league. However, while he did not have a bad game, for a player who should be desperate to regain his spot in the starting eleven, he simply didn’t do enough in my opinion.
The 23-year-old indeed registered an assist, so based on stats alone, he made an impact. But, when watching the game, it was clear that outside of that assist, he wasn’t as dangerous, nor as involved as I would like him to be.
It is harsh to be so critical given his lack of playing time. Still, his lack of playing time is exactly why he must take opportunities such as this one with both hands and make a real statement to Arteta, something which he has failed to do for quite some time now in my opinion.
Continued on the next slide…