When it comes to their heavy artillery, Arsenal are in a different league to Sheffield United but Chris Wilder’s Blades produced a determination, intensity and quality the Europa League finalists are simply incapable of when the going gets tough away from home.
The deserved reward was the most impressive victory of their latest stint in the Premier League.
With Oli McBurnie limited to a five-minute cameo days after being charged with drink-driving in Leeds city centre, it was left to Lys Mousset to mark his first Premier League start for the South Yorkshire club with the only goal of the game.
The Blades needed a moment of poor finishing, some good refereeing and excellent goalkeeping for Mousset to be the match-winner but it was no less than a rumbustious team performance deserved as the home side soaked up all their more heralded opponents could launch at them while throwing a few punches of their own.
Their football matched the pumped-up atmosphere, taking the game to opponents whose form on the road this season has been as disappointing as the Blades’ return – if not perhaps their form – has been at Bramall Lane.
It took a last-ditch tackle from Matteo Guendouzi to stop the Blades breaking away from a seventh-minute Arsenal corner but most of the early flag kicks were at the Gunners’ end, with left wing-back Enda Stevens a particularly good outlet.
When former Middlesbrough loanee Calum Chambers miscontrolled a simple pass inside the opening quarter of an hour, it showed Arsenal had been rattled by a noisy crowd and the in-your-face performance of the team they were roaring on.
Chris Basham produced a wonderful pass to Mousset after 20 minutes but the striker was unable to make anything of it, and eventually John Fleck’s cross was cut out.
Not that it was all one-way football. Fleck picked up a booking for a foul on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or earlier in the day, and Baldock had to make a good tackle to stop Sead Kolasinac.
After 21 minutes left-back Kolasinac produced a cross which was just begging for Nicolas Pepe to tap it in but to the relief of the home fans, the £72m winger failed to make a clean contact.
Pepe has not yet lived up to his extravagant price tag and a second-half free-kick gave him an opportunity to test Dean Henderson he was unable to take, curling the ball for a comfortable catch.
Mousset was also, briefly, the Blades’ record signing – an honour now held by McBurnie – albeit at a much more modest £10m, but he has been much more effective in winning over his new club’s supporters.
It was the Frenchman who capitalised on the Gunners’ flakiness at set-pieces to put his side ahead after half an hour. Jack O’Connell was under little pressure when he headed the ball back across goal from a far-post corner, and Mousset scored his second goal since joining from Bournemouth.
Minutes after Bladock had a penalty appeal waved away at one end, the home fans were holding their breath as Buyako Saka went to ground in the opposite 18-yard box. John Egan pulled out of the tackle but the winger looked for his foot, and went down as soon as he found it. Referee Mike Dean, never afraid of a big decision, refused the penalty appeals and booked Saka for diving.
It took an excellent Henderson save to preserve the Blades’ half-time advantage, tipping a shot from distance by Granit Xhaka around the post.
Inevitably the pressure continued after the break, with Unai Emery throwing on Dani Ceballos and Alexandre Lacazette.
When Saka dinked a lovely ball to Ceballos, the Real Madrid loanee scuffed his shot straight at Henderson, who would later be booked for time-wasting.
If it was inevitable the hosts were going to have to absorb some serious second-half pressure, they refused to sit back and take it, Fleck rifling a left-footed shot into the side-netting, then producing a swerving shot Bernd Leno almost served up for the onrushing McGoldrick.
Norwood fired a warning shot from distance and McBurnie headed over at a corner shortly after replacing McGoldrick. Chambers had a late cross-shot deflected out for a throw but like most of what Arsenal did on the night, it did not require any involvement from Henderson.
The celebrations when Baldock cleared the final attack of the game would have put most goals at Ashburton Grove to shame.
Sheffield United: Henderson; Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood (McBurnie 85), Fleck, Stevens; McGoldrick (Freeman 78), Mousset (Sharp 55). Unused substitutes: Robinson, Jagielka, Moore, Besic.
Arsenal: Leno; Chambers, Papastathopoulos, Luiz, Kolasinac; Guendouzi, Xhaka (Lacazette 68); Pepe (Martinelli 78), Willock (Ceballos 45), Saka; Aubameyang. Unused substitutes: Tierney, Torreira, Holding, Martínez..
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).