Unai Emery is well aware of the “big motivation” driving Sheffield United this season ahead of Arsenal’s battle with the newly-promoted side at Bramall Lane on Monday.
The Blades are back in the Premier League for the first time since they went down on the final day of the 2006-07 campaign.
Goal difference was the deciding factor, although Sheffield United were left aggrieved by Carlos Tevez’s key performances at West Ham and were eventually paid compensation by the east London club as the signing of the Argentinian breached rules governing third-party ownership.
It was a small consolation compared to the price of losing Premier League status and a return to the top flight looked a long way off until Chris Wilder was appointed manager in 2016.
Under the ex-Sheffield United defender, they have secured two promotions and have already pushed Liverpool this season so Arsenal know this fixture under the lights at Bramall Lane will be a pivotal test of their top four credentials.
Emery said of Monday’s opponents: “They were in Premier League and they lost that in 2007, but they came back with big motivation.
“The coach (Wilder), really his career with that team is amazing and how they are playing is the same as they played in the Championship, with big confidence, good players and their style is to be offensive.
“Also they are defensively very strong and we are analysing the best possible game plan, but really it is going to be difficult.
“For us we need to respect first and then we need to prepare, we need to use our game plan, quality and skills. Really we know it will be very difficult and we need to be very competitive in the 90 minutes.”
Away from Arsenal – but not too far from Sheffield – is Gunners highly-rated forward Eddie Nketiah, who is currently on loan at Championship promotion hopefuls Leeds.
He struck a hat-trick for England Under-21s on Tuesday to highlight his obvious potential, but a lack of game time at Elland Road is beginning to prove a problem.
Speaking after his treble against Austria, Nketiah admitted: “It’s been disappointing for me not to start in the league, I went there to play games.”
When called upon for Leeds, the 20-year-old has impressed; scoring against Salford and Stoke in the Carabao Cup and in league wins over Brentford and Barnsley, but he was only listed as a substitute for the league fixture with Birmingham this weekend, coming on at half-time.
“Firstly I respect his coach (Marcelo Bielsa) and his decision. I think he is going to play more. He is going to deserve it,” Emery added.
“Each match he plays with Leeds and the national team is important for him and important for Arsenal also because we want him to get confidence and take experience and use it in the future for us.
“He is doing it. He is maybe playing less than we want, but I am sure he will play more.”