A cool right-footed finish by Arsenal‘s Dani Ceballos in injury time booked Arsenal’s spot in the FA Cup semifinals following a dramatic 1-2 victory over Sheffield United on Sunday. United looked to have rescued a result with three minutes remaining when David McGoldrick equalised following Nicolas Pepe‘s first-half penalty.
Winning is a strong habit to break, and Arsenal’s two recent successes over Southampton and Sheffield United might just provide the catalyst Mikel Arteta requires to inspire his squad to achieving a Europa League place for next season — although admittedly qualification via the FA Cup now looks the more likely with fifth-placed Wolves nine points up the table.
For large parts of the second half, Arsenal found themselves under a barrage of attacks from either flanks as United searched for an equaliser. The late winner will certainly quash the majority of fans’ concerns, but in the long run, Arteta has plenty of work to do in midfield and defensive areas if the Gunners are going to challenge for a Champions League spot anytime soon.
Manager rating out of 10
8 — It would be easy to weigh in on the negatives of Arsenal’s performance, but Arteta’s quick-thinking approach concerning his substitutes perhaps proved the difference between an FA Cup flop and progression. Substitute Eddie Nketiah delivered a wicked cross to Pepe, whose heavy touched opened the door for Ceballos’ winner.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Emiliano Martinez, 7 — Conceded three goals, but the flag was raised for two of them. It would be harsh to criticise Martinez for the goal while praise can certainly be sent in his direction for executing a fine save from Oliver Norwood‘s powerful drive at the end of the first half.
DF David Luiz, 6 — Picked up an ankle injury shortly before the hour mark passed and his departure certainly aided United as they pressed forward for an equaliser, which they eventually found before Ceballos’ late winner.
DF Shkodran Mustafi, 6 — Came unstuck when faced by the attacking threat of Oli McBurnie in the game’s opening minutes, but Mustafi settled in and can reflect on a fair match in which he certainly didn’t disgrace himself.
DF Sead Kolasinac, 5 — A moment to forget when he failed to clear his lines in the seconds building up to Sheffield United’s late equaliser. Will perhaps feel a little relieved to return south with a semifinal spot confirmed.
MF Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 6 — Dynamic in midfield but lacked an assist to really add some spark to his performance. His versatility is proving key for Arteta, though, with Arsenal’s injury list starting to build.
MF Joe Willock, 6 — Fresh from scoring against Southampton in the Premier League, Willock’s impact against United wasn’t quite up to the standard set against the Saints earlier this week. Will be pleased escape the game injury-free after going down following a clash of heads.
MF Granit Xhaka, 7 — Played an important role in midfield and picked out his passes well while at the other end of the pitch putting his body on the line to block a number of key shots and crosses.