Arsenal to assess Bukayo Saka injury as Mikel Arteta hails 'attitude' in Sheffield United win

Arsenal kept alive their hopes of European qualification with victory at Bramall Lane as Sheffield United's inevitable relegation from the Premier League edged ever nearer; Bukayo Saka went off midway through second half with thigh injury

Arsenal's Bukayo Saka went off with a thigh injury at Bramall Lane
Image: Arsenal's Bukayo Saka went off with a thigh injury at Bramall Lane

Arsenal will assess Bukayo Saka over the next couple of days after the versatile midfielder collected a thigh injury in their 3-0 win over Sheffield United.

A wonderful team goal scored by Alexandre Lacazette gave the visitors the half-time lead before Gabriel Martinelli marked his recall to the team with a goal. Lacazette then struck again late on for his 50th Premier League goal for the Gunners.

Sunday's 3-0 success was Arsenal's first clean sheet in 15 matches in all competitions, and the three points moved Mikel Arteta's team up to ninth in the table, seven points behind sixth-placed Liverpool - but it may have come at a cost.

Saka, who was deployed at the tip of a diamond by Arteta in the absence of Martin Odegaard, sustained a thigh injury midway through the second half at Bramall Lane following a challenge with Rhian Brewster.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Arsenal's 3-0 win against Sheffield United

Arsenal face a pivotal Europa League quarter-final second leg with Slavia Prague on Thursday, with the tie in the balance following the 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium last week, but Arteta says it's too soon to know whether Saka will be ruled out of the trip to the Czech Republic.

"I don't know yet [the severity of the injury]. He had to come off as he had discomfort in his thigh which is the last thing that we needed," Arteta said. "We're missing some big players out at the moment so the last thing we need is another one. Hopefully it's not that serious.

"I don't know the extent of it. For Thursday, David [Luiz] will be out, Kieran [Tierney] will be out and then with Emile [Smith Rowe] and Martin [Odegaard], we don't know yet. We'll have to see how Bukayo develops in the next few days.

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"I hope Pierre-Emerick [Aubameyang] can be back for Thursday - he was unwell yesterday and couldn't train but hopefully in the next day or two he can be better."

Lacazette was in fine form as Arsenal breezed past Sheffield United
Image: Lacazette was in fine form as Arsenal breezed past Sheffield United

Arsenal's opener was a goal of real beauty as Dani Ceballos' deft backheel flick eventually put Lacazette through on goal to slide the ball beneath Aaron Ramsdale.

It was not quite of the level of Arsenal's much-celebrated team goal against Norwich in 2013, scored by Jack Wilshere, but it had many of its hallmarks.

Arteta added: "It was a typical Arsenal goal. It was of a high quality and the movement was really good. Laca is playing really well at the moment - he's full of confidence. He needs to keep doing it right up until the end of the season.

"In the last six or seven months, I've seen a big change in the way he interacts with people and the way he interacts with his team-mates. I have seen the leadership he has taken onto the pitch and that's really positive. He's a player with huge experience and we need his type of character in the team."

Gabriel Martinelli taps home from close range to double Arsenal's lead
Image: Gabriel Martinelli taps home from close range to double Arsenal's lead

The Gunners doubled their lead midway through the second half when John Lundstram sloppily surrendered possession to Nicolas Pepe while attempting to play out from the back and the Ivorian's driving run and shot saw Ramsdale parry the ball out for Martinelli to tap into an empty net.

It was the teenager's first goal in 15 months following a serious knee injury, but Arteta reiterated the need to be patient with the forward amid a clamour for him to be handed more regular starts from supporters.

"Of course, I'm delighted with him but I'm asking you to be patient as we have a lot players who are 19, 20 years old. They're compared with other players of similar ages at Premier League clubs towards the top end, but it's not common. Gabby is having the right path and the right development.

"He's got an incredible attitude and talent, and has his entire future in front of him. What we need to do is manage that and try to give him the right amount of minutes and the right games to develop and get better."

Heckingbottom laments 'harsh' defeat

Paul Heckingbottom has seen his Sheffield United side concede 10 goals during his three Premier League games in charge
Image: Paul Heckingbottom has seen his Sheffield United side concede 10 goals during his three Premier League games in charge

For the Blades, it was a 25th Premier League loss of the season and they remain rooted to the bottom of the table. A third straight defeat for interim boss Paul Heckingbottom - a second in the league - leaves the South Yorkshire club 18 points from safety with seven games to go.

"It was disappointing," Heckingbottom said. "It's an unforgiving league. 3-0 may sound harsh but that's the margins at this level. It's a ruthless league and the second goal took the wind out of our sails.

"I felt we didn't have enough control over Arsenal when we didn't have the ball in the first half. We didn't win it back high enough so we had to make a change tactically to get more control over them and to get more bodies higher up the pitch when we had it.

"The second goal changed the complex of the game and came at a time when we were enjoying our best spell in the match. I'm not thinking about next season - I'm thinking of the next match against Wolves. What's happened this season will have taken its toll on a lot of people but we have to look forwards.

"Everyone should have something to play for and should give 100 per cent. That has to be the message all the time. Everything else can be a distraction if you let it. The message is to fight through it."

Sheffield United are heading towards relegation being confirmed
Image: Sheffield United are heading towards relegation being confirmed

Heckingbottom has seen his Sheffield United side concede 10 goals during his three Premier League games in charge, the joint-most after a manager's first three games in the competition.

But the Blades will have Sander Berge back in training next week with a view to him returning to the side in a fortnight. The Blades are on 14 points, so what goals have been set between now and the end of the season?

Heckingbottom added: "We want to catch West Brom [in 19th place]. It's got big meaning in terms of pride and it's got a financial reward as well. Forget the idea of 20 points. We can't shy away from the position we're in. We have to attack these moments in the best possible way to make us stronger.

"The players have to learn from this and be in a position to come out stronger if it ever happens again. We have older players who can help the younger ones who can help develop a mentality. It's only then that the good times can come back."

What's next?

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Sheffield United visit Wolves next Saturday at 3pm, live on Sky Sports.

Arsenal travel to face Slavia Prague in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final on Thursday before hosting Fulham in the Premier League next Sunday, live on Sky Sports, at 1.30pm.

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