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.
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 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 14 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.
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.
Each team created a good early chance. Some good hold-up play by Martinelli enabled him to turn and run at the home defence before sliding a pass to Bukayo Saka to his left, but the England international’s shot cleared the crossbar.
At the other end, Ben Osborn’s pass inside was collected by David McGoldrick just inside the penalty area but, after a good touch to set himself up, he dragged his effort just wide.
After a bright beginning to the match, what remained of the first half was a largely scrappy affair interrupted by the occasional signs of quality from Arsenal.
One such instance of the Gunners’ fine football should have seen them take the lead after 23 minutes. Dani Ceballos flicked the ball into Lacazette after he dropped deep to get involved. The France international then turned on the attack and invited Martinelli on to a pass down the left side of the box but he drilled his shot into the side-netting.
Arsenal opened the scoring 10 minutes later and it was a goal of real beauty. Some lovely one-touch football around the edge of the penalty area involved Saka, Thomas Partey and Ceballos, whose 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.
The Blades enjoyed their first spell of real pressure at the start of the second half as an effort from McGoldrick brought a corner from which John Egan worked Bernd Leno.
However, Arsenal relieved the pressure on them by impressively playing out of the home side’s press, not for the first time in the game, as Lacazette combined with Calum Chambers to set Nicolas Pepe free down the right. His cross was only scuffed goalwards by Lacazette, though, as the move did not get the finish it deserved.
The Gunners doubled their lead midway through the second half. John Lundstram sloppily surrendered possession to Pepe while attempting to play out from the back and Pepe’s driving run and shot saw Ramsdale parry the ball out for Martinelli to tap into an empty net.
Arteta’s team were in cruise control and added a third goal in the 85th minute. Partey easily turned Osborn in midfield before his pass set Lacazette through on goal. He raced away from his defender before firing home past Ramsdale.