Unai Emery claimed Nicolas Pepe’s miss from six yards was a key moment as Arsenal’s run of eight games unbeaten in all competitions came to an end at Sheffield United.

Lys Mousset’s goal at Bramall Lane gave the Blades a 1-0 win as Arsenal’s poor run against the Blades continued, having never won against them in four Premier League attempts.

Pepe has endured a frustrating start to his career in England having moved from Lille for £72million in the summer with the forward yet to score from open play for the Gunners.  

The defeat means Arsenal miss an opportunity to go third in the league and Emery believes Pepe’s miss is part of a process with improvement and gaining confidence.

"The chance for us, for Pepe, was the key," he told reporters.

"Because if they score the first goal, defensively they’re very strong.

"Pepe is improving I think, but his way with us is little-by-little getting better, and the next step is to score.

"Tonight for example, the best chance is one he is usually going to score, but he didn’t take it with efficiency. He is improving and taking confidence, but it is one process."

Arsenal were denied a "clear penalty" in their 1-0 defeat to Sheffield United and did not deserve to lose the match, according to boss Unai Emery.

Lys Mousset scored the only goal in Monday's Premier League clash at Bramall Lane to earn the hosts a famous victory on his first league start.

The 23-year-old profited from some slack defending from a corner to punish Arsenal, who had previously gone eight matches unbeaten in all competitions.

Defeat for Arsenal cost them the chance to move up to third in the table, but Emery felt his side were denied an obvious penalty for John Egan's shirt pull on Sokratis inside the opening seven minutes.

"We did not deserve to lose and we conceded a lot of corners in the first half and they scored in one action," he told Sky Sports. "Above all, we have to improve by not allowing balls like that. 

"When we have our opportunities to attack, we created more chances than them but did not score today. 

"We deserved more from the game but they have conceded the least goals in the Premier League and it was going to be difficult if they scored first. We tried in the second half, created three good chances to score.

"There were two key moments in the match - one was their goal, and the second was a very clear penalty for us for a foul on Sokratis. It was very clear."

Bukayo Saka was later cautioned for a perceived dive inside the box under pressure from Enda Stevens, five minutes after Mousset's winning goal from close range.

"Saka drives forward but I do not know if it was a penalty," Emery said. "It is a hard action for a yellow card. With VAR, the foul on Sokratis should have been reviewed. It was clear but we have to accept it.

"We did not deserve to lose and we will think about where we can improve. When we were losing 1-0, we controlled the game and defended well but they had a lot of players in their box so it was difficult to achieve attacks."

Arsenal are now winless in four league games away from home since the opening weekend and Emery added: "We have challenges in each match. 

"Tonight we had a big challenge to get the three points. We are playing some young players who are taking experience but the most important thing is to win. The result is one thing, but we can analyse positively."

In over a year at the club, it's difficult to see what impact Unai Emery has actually had on Arsenal.

Even before kick-off at Bramall Lane, there was a certain aura around the contest that had Arsenal's struggles on Monday looking entirely predictable.

Firstly, the Gunners' record in Sheffield – for what it matters – is woeful in the Premier League, having won just once against United or Wednesday and losing six.

While the Blades' pre-match position of 15th was hardly anything to be impressed by, they have been lauded for their defensive solidity, conceding the joint-fewest goals in the division with Liverpool.

If there was a team you could see a mentally fragile Arsenal struggling against in a game many would ordinarily expect them to win, it was the Blades.

The Gunners' display was reassuringly typical.

Much of the build-up play was easy on the eye, yet they were sorely lacking killer instinct and once again appeared feeble at the back. On top of that, it remains a mystery as to what Emery's plan is.

Nicolas Pepe's performance was his Arsenal career in a microcosm. The Ivory Coast international showed some nice flashes and, in fairness, was arguably the visitors' most creative player, delivering 12 crosses – five of them accurate – and crafting a glorious chance for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

But then came the moment of horror. With Sead Kolasinac's low cross played right across the face of goal, Pepe was there to tap in from about two yards out, only he barely touched the ball and he was left with his head in his hands.

United capitalised and exploited Arsenal's defensive frailty with 30 minutes on the clock. Oliver Norwood's corner found Jack O'Connell unmarked at the back post and his header was diverted home by the similarly unattended Lys Mousset in the middle of the six-yard box.

It was the 22nd goal Arsenal have conceded from a set-piece in the Premier League since the start of last season, the third worst after Everton (24) and Watford (25).

As such, Arsenal have now kept just two clean sheets in their past 14 league games.

They were the dominant force after the interval, spending much of it in the Blades' half, but it was still unclear how they planned to find a way through.

Dani Ceballos' introduction at least saw a competent ball-player enter the fray, though he didn't offer much drive or incisiveness, rather spending most of his time spraying long-range passes out to the right flank.

It's the same old story; Arsenal possess talent but lack character.

Even in Arsene Wenger's latter days one could see an identity, but now that's less clear. Emery's general system resembles that of a counter-attacking team, though most weeks they look almost unrecognisable to the last.

Of course, part of that comes down to the players being used, but at the same time that suggests Emery regularly squeezes players into roles they aren't suitable for.

As their desperation grew on Monday, Arsenal's plan B seemed to be based on hooking hopeful balls into the penalty area and that never looked like working against this Sheffield United defence.

Arsenal's lack of inspiration and ingenuity meant defeat was entirely deserved, but most alarming is how predictable their gutless performance was. It was entirely in keeping with their away record under Emery, having won just eight of 24 Premier League games on the road since he took over, recording two clean sheets.

Until Emery fixes that spinlessness, he is doomed to leave Arsenal having changed nothing.

Arsenal missed out on the chance to move up to third place in the Premier League as they fell to a 1-0 defeat against Sheffield United on Monday.

Unai Emery's men entered the match unbeaten in eight matches, including five in the top flight, but came unstuck at Bramall Lane.

The only goal of the game was scored by Lys Mousset half an hour in, coming shortly after Nicolas Pepe had failed to round off a swift counter.

Arsenal had a strong penalty appeal turned down and ultimately could not find a way through, leaving them fifth in the table and winless in four league visits to this ground.

The visitors were punished for Pepe's close-range miss by Mousset's opener eight minutes later.

Jack O'Connell headed down a corner into the six-yard box, where Mousset was waiting to pounce to double his tally for the season.

The visitors were further frustrated when Bukayo Saka was cautioned for simulation when he went down in the box, despite arguing that contact was made by Enda Stevens.

Granit Xhaka had a long-range drive pushed aside by Dean Henderson and the same player glanced over just before half-time.

Pepe was also denied by Henderson from a free-kick and Sead Kolasinac headed over from a good position, but Arsenal were unable to find an equaliser on another day of frustration for Emery.

What does it mean? Away-day blues costing Arsenal

Arsenal are now winless in four Premier League away games since beating Newcastle United on the opening weekend, losing two and drawing two - an issue Unai Emery quickly needs to rectify.

The Gunners have also kept only two clean sheets in 24 top-flight matches on their travels, with this latest setback denying them the chance to move into the Champions League places.

Norwood takes control

Oliver Norwood has impressed during the early stages of the season and produced another composed display here.

He completed 34 passes - more than any other home player - and nobody could better his five tackles.

Pepe's miss proves costly

Arsenal's defence will understandably be criticised after conceding from another set-piece - only Watford and Everton have conceded more from those situations since the start of last season - but their attack also needs sorting.

Pepe squandered a glaring opportunity to put the visitors in front shortly before Mousset's opener and managed just one shot on target all match.

What's next?

Arsenal take on Vitoria Guimaraes in the Europa League on Thursday, before returning to league action with a home match against Crystal Palace on Sunday. Sheffield United have a five-day break prior to facing West Ham.

Arsenal boss Unai Emery is happy with the improvement he has seen with Mesut Ozil in training as the midfielder targets a future at Emirates Stadium.

Ozil has played just twice in all competitions this season, yet he insisted in a wide-ranging interview with The Athletic on Thursday that he will not be leaving Arsenal before the end of his contract in 2021.

Emery also appears open to giving Ozil another chance, revealing the factors for his limited action this term ahead of Monday's Premier League trip to Sheffield United.

They include an attempted armed robbery in London that targeted Ozil and Arsenal team-mate Sead Kolasinac.

Emery has previously suggested Ozil was not offering enough in training to warrant more regular football, but he is pleased with the player's recent response.

"With Mesut, this year started with difficulty for him," Emery told a news conference on Thursday. "In pre-season, he worked well and was playing in the matches.

"But his problem with Sead stopped his progression and then, after that problem, he was sick for one week. He lost a lot of training to continue to work and keep his fitness.

"In the last two or three weeks, his training has improved. It's good. I didn't close with him the possibility of playing. If he is okay, if he is ready, if he is available and training, gives us a good feeling every day in training, he can play.

"My idea is to use every player and he is one in the squad who can help us. He has big skills and qualities we will need in the next matches.

"I am happy now with how he is improving, how he is training every day. He's one more player in the squad.

"[Previously] in that moment, maybe physically, maybe with more rhythm, maybe depending on each match, there were other players in front of him. Now, I feel better with him."

Kieran Tierney is ready to start at Bramall Lane, while Alexandre Lacazette is back in full training, with Emery refusing to rule out the possibility of the France striker starting.

"Today was his first session with us and he's feeling well," said Emery, adding to the club's earlier update on Lacazette's fitness.

"It depends on how he feels in the next days whether he'll feature on Monday, but it's been positive. I don't know if he will play 90 minutes or start on the bench."

Alexandre Lacazette could return to the Arsenal team against Sheffield United on Monday after resuming full training this week.

The France striker, who has two goals in three Premier League games this season, has not featured since limping out of the derby draw against Tottenham on September 1.

Arsenal later revealed Lacazette had been playing through an injury and would not return to action until October.

Lacazette was not involved in a training match against a Reading XI during the international break, but an update on Arsenal's website on Thursday said the forward was "progressing well".

A decision on his status for the league trip to Bramall Lane will be made in the coming days.

Meanwhile, Reiss Nelson is set to be out until November with a knee injury sustained in the Europa League defeat of Standard Liege, but Emile Smith Rowe is available again following a knock against Nottingham Forest three weeks ago.

The Gunners are third in the table, with 15 points from eight matches.

Franck Ribery says the affection he feels for Fiorentina has justified his decision to shun transfer interest from the Premier League.

The former France international was linked to Sheffield United and clubs in the Middle East after leaving Bayern Munich as a free agent at the end of last season.

Fiorentina won the race for his signature and have reaped the benefits, with winger Ribery named Serie A's Most Valuable Player for September following a string of standout performances for Vincenzo Montella's side.

"I had other contacts, in England and also in Italy, but there was a spark with the Fiorentina executives," Ribery told Corriere della Serra.

"When I agreed to come to Florence I couldn't know that it would be love at first sight, but that's how it has been since the evening of the presentation. That night was special and I will always carry it with me.

"Speaking with [sporting director Daniele] Prade and [consultant Joe] Barone, even with coach Montella, I felt warmth and confidence in me."

The 36-year-old departed Bayern at the same time as long-time team-mate Arjen Robben, who decided to retire aged 35.

"I don't know," Ribery responded when asked how much longer he might have left in the game.

"I came here because I'm hungry and I want to be able to win something. But the future cannot be foreseen."

Dean Henderson has been called up to the England squad for the first time to replace the injured Tom Heaton.

The goalkeeper, on loan at Sheffield United from Manchester United, is to join up with Gareth Southgate's squad at St George's Park on Wednesday.

"The decision was taken after Heaton returned to his club for further assessment on an injury sustained during Aston Villa's win against Norwich City last weekend," the FA added in a statement.

Henderson, who has represented England from Under-16 to Under-21 level, has impressed with Sheffield United in the past year, helping them secure promotion to the Premier League.

The 22-year-old rejoined the Blades in July for another season after signing a new three-year contract with Manchester United.

"This is what dreams are made of... it's a dream come true to receive my first England senior call up!!" he wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

England face the Czech Republic and Bulgaria in Euro 2020 qualifiers on October 11 and 14 respectively.

Liverpool are one of only six clubs to have won all of their opening eight matches of a top-flight season in England.

Saturday's 2-1 victory over Leicester City, courtesy of a James Milner penalty deep into injury time, means Jurgen Klopp's side have matched a feat the club first achieved back in 1991.

It also stretches Liverpool's run to 17 consecutive league victories, putting them just one short of matching the record set by Pep Guardiola's Manchester City between August and December two years ago.

City have never opened a season with eight wins in a row, though. Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham, Sheffield United and Everton are the only teams apart from Liverpool to have managed that.

Surprisingly, such a start has mostly led to an unsuccessful bid to win the top-flight title.

Of the seven occasions that a team has won eight from eight at the start of the season, only twice has that side gone on to become champions of England in that same campaign.

Chelsea managed it under Jose Mourinho in 2005-06, but you have to go back to 1961 for the only other instance, when Tottenham won their second and most recent league title.

In 1991, Liverpool finished second to Arsenal after their perfect start, while Manchester United could only manage fourth after winning their first 10 in a row in 1985-86.

Sheffield United ended up down in seventh after storming to eight straight wins to kick off the campaign back in 1904, and Everton were league runners-up to Sunderland in 1894-95.

Can Liverpool buck this trend in 2019-20? Their first game after the international break might give some indication, when they will look to match City's 18-match winning run – by beating Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Liverpool maintained their 100 per cent Premier League record courtesy of a fortuitous moment in a 1-0 win over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on a weekend when their nearest rivals kept the pressure on.

There were landmark goals and appearances for major players in Manchester City's 3-1 victory over Everton at Goodison Park, while Tottenham picked up a much-needed win as Harry Kane extended his outstanding record in matches against Southampton.

Spurs went into the weekend under pressure, as did rivals Chelsea who ended an unwanted 11-game streak as they beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.

Our Premier League Data Diary brings to light the detail behind the big stories of this weekend's top games.

 

STERLING HITS THE HUNDRED AS SILVA REACHES DOUBLE CENTURY

There were few of the fireworks that erupted during their eight-goal win over Watford but Manchester City still had enough attacking power to claim a 3-1 victory over Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday.

Gabriel Jesus opened the scoring by heading in a Kevin De Bruyne cross, giving him a 22nd goal in his past 21 starts for club and country and an eighth league assist of the season for the in-form De Bruyne.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin equalised before the interval but Riyad Mahrez's fine free-kick and Raheem Sterling's 100th club goal in all competitions ended Everton's resolve and earned substitute David Silva a 200th Premier League victory in record time, the City captain making his 289th appearance in the competition.

The Toffees did manage eight shots on target, the most the champions have faced in a top-flight fixture since November 2015, but Calvert-Lewin's prodded first-half finish was all they took from a fourth defeat of the campaign.

LUCKY WIJNALDUM WINNER MAKES LIVERPOOL'S LONG WAIT WORTHWHILE

Dean Henderson's howler gifted Liverpool a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane and a club record-extending 16th successive Premier League win.

England Under-21 goalkeeper Henderson, on-loan from Manchester United, failed to keep out a tame Georginio Wijnaldum volley as the Reds made the breakthrough in the 70th minute with their first shot on target.

Jurgen Klopp's men were forced to battle hard but have now won seven games at the outset of a league season for just the second time, having first done so in 1990-91.

Their undefeated run in the Premier League, which began in January, stands at 24 matches leading into next weekend's home meeting with Brendan Rodgers' Leicester City.

KANE HITS WINNER TO MATCH SIX-GAME STREAK

Tottenham entertained Southampton having won just one of their previous five Premier League matches but survived Serge Aurier's sending-off and a Hugo Lloris howler to pick up their eighth victory over the Saints in nine league attempts at home.

Mauricio Pochettino's men started well, with Tanguy Ndombele scoring his second league goal for Spurs in the 24th minute, and he has now scored more goals (2) in five Premier League appearances for the north London club than he managed in 69 Ligue 1 appearances for Amiens and Lyon combined (1).

Aurier then picked up his second booking of the game for a foul on Ryan Bertrand in the 32nd minute and became the first Tottenham player to be sent off in a Premier League home game since Kyle Naughton against Stoke City in November 2014.

But after Lloris gifted Danny Ings an equaliser, Harry Kane pounced from 12 yards with Spurs' winner in the 43rd minute and took his tally to six in six straight Premier League appearances against Southampton, and only Robin van Persie vs Stoke (8), Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink vs West Ham (7) and Romelu Lukaku vs West Ham (7) have had longer scoring streaks against an opponent in the competition.

FIRST CLEAN SHEET BRIGHTENS BLUES' PROSPECTS

Frank Lampard's first home victory as Chelsea head coach came at the expense of Brighton, who suffered a 2-0 reverse at Stamford Bridge - their ninth defeat in nine league matches between the two sides.

The result gave Chelsea the record for most games played against a single opponent while winning every single one, surpassing Bournemouth's eight victories against Wimbledon, as well as their first clean sheet under Lampard.

It was Chelsea's first clean sheet since their goalless draw with Leicester City on the last day of the 2018-19 Premier League season, ending a run of 11 matches in all competitions without a shut-out, and Jorginho's goal from the penalty spot was his second of the season - more than he mustered in 54 games last term.

Willian added a second 14 minutes from time, finding the net for the first time in 17 Premier League appearances for Chelsea despite having 32 shots at goal during that period.

Lampard will have been delighted with the clean sheet, but also with the fact that Chelsea attempted 17 shots in the first half alone - their highest total in an opening 45 minutes of a Premier League game since August 2013 (18 against Hull City).

Liverpool's flawless start to their Premier League season continued on Saturday with a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Sheffield United thanks to Georginio Wijnaldum's winner.

The Reds were made to battle by the Blades and secured their seventh win in as many games after Dutch midfielder Wijnaldum's shot squirmed through the legs of Blades goalkeeper Dean Henderson.

Chelsea earned Frank Lampard his first league win at Stamford Bridge with a 2-0 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion, while top-four rivals Tottenham, who were reduced to 10 men, claimed a 2-1 win over Southampton.

Elsewhere, Wolves beat Watford 2-0, Crystal Palace battled to a 2-0 win against Norwich City, and Aston Villa's clash with Burnley and Bournemouth's match against West Ham both finished in 2-2 draws.

KLOPP'S MEN SHOW THEIR GRIT

This was a day when Liverpool had to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in. Sheffield United did not give Jurgen Klopp's side an inch and the German had to squeeze every ounce of effort out of his players.

It was even more acute when Liverpool's front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino seemed to forget where the goal was and errant finishing might have proved costly on another day.

Klopp's side have been renowned for their free-flowing football but they showed a grittier side against dogged opponents at Bramall Lane.

If they are to go one better than last season and beat Manchester City to the title that resilience, especially away from Anfield, is going to be key.

HOME COMFORT FOR LAMPARD

Lampard had gone into this game without a Premier League victory at Stamford Bridge – it was an itch he was absolutely desperate to scratch.

Chelsea thrashed Grimsby 7-1 in the EFL Cup on Wednesday to give Lampard his first win on home soil, but it is the league where the former England international will be judged and he needed three points against Brighton.

At half-time, with the scoreline goalless against the Seagulls, Lampard might have been more than a little concerned.

However, a penalty from Jorginho five minutes into the second half eased the nerves before compatriot Willian added a second to give Chelsea a routine victory.

SPURS SHOW THEIR METTLE

This had all the hallmarks of being a miserable day for Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino, but he ended up with a smile on his face.

A red card for Serge Aurier just after the half-hour mark and a howler from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris had the whiff of a Tottenham implosion.

Tanguy Ndombele put Tottenham ahead before Aurier was shown a second yellow card. Lloris then sloppily allowed Danny Ings to equalise when he casually received a Toby Alderweireld pass.

Harry Kane had Spurs ahead again before half-time but, playing the majority of the game with 10 men, Southampton had chances. Spurs, though, showed plenty of backbone to earn the three points.

LATE EQUALISERS FOR BURNLEY AND WEST HAM

Aston Villa missed the chance for a second league win after they were twice pegged by Burnley. Anwar El Ghazi put Villa ahead before Jay Rodriguez levelled. John McGinn had Dean Smith's side in front again, only for Chris Wood to equalise with nine minutes left.

Bournemouth's clash with West Ham also finished 2-2. Andriy Yarmolenko's third league goal of the campaign put the Hammers in the lead but Josh King equalised. In-form Callum Wilson then struck in the first minute after half-time only for Aaron Cresswell to secure a share of the spoils for the Hammers.

In the day's other games, Wolves banked their first three points of the season with a 2-0 victory over winless Watford, who prop up the rest of the table, thanks to a strike from Matt Doherty and Daryl Janmaat's own goal.

Crystal Palace clinched a 2-0 win over newly promoted Norwich to move into the comfort of mid-table following a penalty from spot-kick expert Luka Milivojevic and an injury-time strike from Andros Townsend.

Chris Wilder told Sheffield United goalkeeper Dean Henderson to improve his concentration after his costly error in a 1-0 Premier League loss at home to Liverpool.

League leaders Liverpool struggled to break the Blades down at Bramall Lane on Saturday, but maintained their 100 per cent record thanks to Henderson's howler.

Georginio Wijnaldum's drive was straight at the goalkeeper but he allowed the ball to squirm out of his grasp and cross the line.

Henderson, on loan at Sheffield United from Manchester United for the second straight season, has been tipped for a maiden call-up to the England squad.

But he made the error in front of Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate and Wilder has little sympathy for the 22-year-old.

"If he wants to be a professional footballer, these things are going to happen," Wilder told a post-match news conference.

"But if he wants to play for the top teams, he wants to play for England, then he needs to do better.

"He needs to concentrate more. It's a disappointing day for him. I am not going to put my arms around him. Simply he needs to do better."

Sheffield United would have likely ended Liverpool's long winning run in the Premier League, which now stands at 16 matches, had Henderson kept out Wijnaldum's effort.

"I am not bothered about pride, I am bothered about the result," Wilder added. "Liverpool had an off day and I think we missed an opportunity. In pressurised situations we need to remain composed.

"We were delighted with the shape but their chances came from our mistakes. We have had big moments in the game but we did not take them, we had to jump all over it and we didn't.

"We had enough to get something out of this game but we did not take our opportunities. Points are the most important thing and we did not get points we deserved today."

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp revealed he almost substituted Georginio Wijnaldum shortly before his decisive goal in Saturday's 1-0 win over Sheffield United.

The Reds had struggled to break down Chris Wilder's spirited side and looked destined to drop points in the Premier League for the first time this season.

Netherlands international Wijnaldum ensured they made it seven wins out of seven, though, when his volley from the edge of the penalty area squirmed through the grasp of goalkeeper Dean Henderson 20 minutes from time at Bramall Lane. 

Klopp says he was close to bringing the midfielder off six minutes earlier but ultimately opted to introduce Divock Origi at the expense of Jordan Henderson.

"It was an offensive change," the Reds boss told a media conference. "We had the opportunity to take off either Hendo or Gini. Both worked hard; for both it was not an easy game.

"Obviously I made the right decision as Gini stayed on the pitch and scored!"

"We wanted to change our approach so we could have then Roberto [Firmino] finally between the lines but still an option in behind with Mo [Salah]. We needed to defend the wings properly because they were there constantly.

"Divock made a proper impact when he came on. It was really helpful that we could pass the ball there for the one-on-one situations and I think he crossed the ball before the goal as well."

Liverpool were far from their fluid best against Wilder's well-drilled side and Klopp says the Blades can feel hard done by in not holding on to secure a point.

"All respect to Sheffield United," he added. "They did really well and they did that over 90 minutes; that really deserves all the respect.

"We still had big chances and then we had luck around the goal, that is clear. It was not our biggest chance in the game and it was unlucky for Sheffield United for sure.

"So, if it had been a draw I would sit here and say that's how it was today, Sheffield United deserved it and that's what we deserved.

"I don't think we would have deserved to lose but a draw was there if we didn't take the chances. But we got the three points and that leaves me pretty happy at the moment, obviously."

Jurgen Klopp said not all wins can be "beauties" after Liverpool scraped past Sheffield United 1-0 on Saturday to maintain their perfect start to the Premier League season.

The Reds looked destined to drop their first points of the campaign until Georginio Wijnaldum's tame volley squirmed through the grasp of Blades goalkeeper Dean Henderson 20 minutes from time.

The hosts more than held their own against the leaders – who have now won all seven of their league games this season – but Klopp was in no doubt that his side deserved all three points.

"These games, they are not all beauties and you have to work hard for the result," he told BT Sport.

"You have to respect the opponent. We had good moments and it was one of these games you have to win but not think too much about it. One team deserved to win, which was us, but all respect to Sheffield United; they were tough.

"I was frustrated and at half-time we spoke about it. We started well, but you have to do the same things again and again. It's about body language. It starts with the centre-halves; it's the little things.

 

"They threw everything at us and they worked incredibly hard. They were a real threat.

"I am fine with the game; not overly happy but it happens. We were concentrated at set pieces for 95 minutes; the boys were spot on. We didn't play our best football but there we are."

Liverpool had become so accustomed to subjugating their opponents in the first half of matches this term – after all, before Saturday they had led at half-time in each Premier League game in 2019-20.

Yet, in Chris Wilder's intriguingly assembled Sheffield United, they found a side able to out-scrap the Reds' famed front three, an unfortunate calamity ultimately denying them a credible and deserved point.

The Blades' so-called 'overlapping centre-backs' have drawn plenty of praise already this term and at times in the first half it was easy to see why, with Chris Basham, John Egan and Jack O'Connell all taking it turns to charge forward to good effect.

Even on such occasions, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane still struggled to exploit any increased space in a curiously laboured outing from the trio.

The only time the Reds' key men managed to combine before the break came in the 43rd minute – Salah getting a lucky ricochet and then feeding Firmino, who overcomplicated the play by setting up Mane instead of shooting. The post came to United's rescue, the finish unimpressive.

In the first period, Salah had 22 touches, Firmino 24 and Mane 30. Only Adrian had fewer on the Liverpool team.

Their ineffectiveness served to highlight a creativity void in Liverpool's midfield, with Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Fabinho doing little to lay on opportunities.

Liverpool's centre-backs appeared more threatening from that perspective.

Virgil van Dijk's gorgeous lofted pass over the defence just past the half-hour mark picked out Mane, but he inexplicably sliced wide with just Dean Henderson to beat, while Joel Matip enjoyed a few surging runs through the centre.

United's display was every bit as impressive as Liverpool's was underwhelming, however.

Wilder had blasted his side's performance in the 2-0 win over Everton last week as their worst of the season – they certainly appeared desperate to leave no stone unturned in their quest to beat the European champions.

There was to be no preparing for Dean Henderson's moment to forget, though, as the on-loan Manchester United goalkeeper allowed Wijnaldum's scrappy effort through his legs 20 minutes from time.

It was a crushing quirk of fate, with Liverpool scarcely deserving the lead.

The Blades had looked the more creative of the two sides for much of the second period, with John Fleck's ability on the ball causing Liverpool's midfield numerous problems – the finishing touch just eluded them, however, as Van Dijk produced another strong performance at the back.

Some pundits this season had been ridiculed for suggesting Liverpool were over-reliant on three players – a bizarre criticism considering many of the world's best sides are often accused of relying on just a single star player.

However, a midfield creator would have benefited Liverpool at Bramall Lane – fortunately for them fortune smiled on the Reds, allowing them to win seven successive Premier League matches at the start of the season for the first time.

Page 2 of 4
© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.