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Unai Emery: Nicolas Pepe Miss 'Was the Key' in Arsenal Loss to Sheffield United

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistOctober 22, 2019

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 21:   Nicolas Pepe of Arsenal shoots wide during the Premier League match between Sheffield United and Arsenal FC at Bramall Lane on October 21, 2019 in Sheffield, United Kingdom. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Nicolas Pepe's first-half miss was crucial in Arsenal's 1-0 loss to Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Monday, according to Gunners head coach Unai Emery.

The Ivorian missed a sitter 21 minutes into the game when the score was still 0-0, failing to convert from less than six yards after Sead Kolasinac's perfect low cross from the left:

BBC 5 Live Sport @5liveSport

CHANCE! "How does he miss that?" - @chris_sutton73 "He will never get a better chance" - @arlowhite Pépé misses an absolute sitter. @SheffieldUnited 0-0 @Arsenal 🎧 Listen here 👇 ⚽️📲 https://t.co/0kUniX6SeW #bbcfootball #SHUARS https://t.co/n1obLHLpFq

Lys Mousset then got the opener for the hosts nine minutes later, and the Blades held on to their lead until the final whistle.

Emery said after the game that, had Pepe converted his chance, it could have been a different result, per Tommy Doleman of Goal:

"The chance for us, for Pepe, was the key. 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 signed Pepe, 24, from Lille in August for a club-record fee of £72 million after he lit up Ligue 1 last term, scoring 22 goals and registering 11 assists:

B/R Football @brfootball

Nicolas Pepe becomes the most expensive African player of all time 💰🌍 https://t.co/urIlzppDyu

He has failed to catch fire in the Premier League yet, though, netting just a single goal in nine appearances, a penalty against Aston Villa in September.

Against Sheffield United, he was actually one of Arsenal's better players on a night when they failed to break back into the Premier League's top four:

Premier League @premierleague

9/38 https://t.co/UhSPOPZJOb

Pepe's miss, though, was indicative of his lack of form, and had he scored it, Arsenal might have earned all three points.

Another crucial moment at Bramall Lane was when the Gunners were denied a penalty six minutes in.

Arsenal centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos went down in the box after having his shirt pulled by John Egan, but referee Mike Dean waved play on.

Emery was adamant after the match that the video assistant referee should have intervened, per Jack Gaughan of the Daily Mail:

"It was a very clear the penalty with Sokratis. Very clear," he said. "I've watched it perfectly. The VAR is for this situation. It is to review and then decide."

Arsenal's defeat in Sheffield ended an eight-game unbeaten run in all competitions for the Gunners. They are back in action in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday, when they host Portuguese outfit Vitoria Guimaraes.

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