post

PREVIEW: Blades look to bounce back following six-goal thriller

High-flying pair Sheffield United and Middlesborough meet at Bramall Lane tonight, with Tony Pulis’ team able to narrow the gap to only one point if they are capable to dethrone the South-Yorkshire based side.

United squandered their chance to temporarily go top of the Championship table last friday, throwing away an emphatic three-goal lead in the final eight minutes at Villa Park. Captain Billy Sharp had hit a vintage fox in the box style hat-trick against Aston Villa, for the hosts only to leave it late with a heartbreaking end in the tail for Blades fans alike.

Blades boss Chris Wilder was bewildered post-match having witnessed his trustworthy number one Dean Henderson make two blundering errors late in the fixture. As well as, the consistent Jack O’Connell miss kicking the ball to the feet of John McGinn who delivered it into Andre Green, who inevitably stole a point for the Villains.

On the other hand, Boro seemed destined to bounce back with a victory against promotion-rivals Leeds United on Saturday, following their collapse defeat in the hands of Newport County in the FA Cup. Unfortunately, despite Lewis Wing opening the scoring for Boro early in the second half, the Teesiders only had themselves to blame as they we’re unable to hold out Kalvin Phillips who rifled a stoppage-time equaliser past Darren Randolph’s sticks.

Intimidating defender Aden Flint will be rueing his missed chances, who really should have put the hosts in front on two different occasions. But by sitting deep, and inviting pressure onto their defensive-line, Leeds eventually broke their resistance, which may be the case again at Bramall Lane if Pulis has the same intention to drop deep instead of attempting to combat a high-pressure system.

Additionally, Sheffield United may have a cause of concern having only won two of their last 10 meetings with the Teeside club, however both of those victories have come in encounters at Bramall Lane.

sufc-5c-20v-5c-_36380806.png

Chris Wilder’s outfit have shown many fantastic performances against the Championship’s lesser powers, but Friday’s missed opportunity at Villa Park was another instance of the Blades dropping points opposite to the division’s elite. The hosts have won just four of their fixtures against top-half sides, with Norwich being the only team in the top-six that United have been able to snatch a point from; leaving an distinct issue.

Similarly, the Teessiders have failed to maintain a consistent run of form, with them only securing back-to-back league victories on one occasion since August. However, this hasn’t sanctioned them out of the automatic promotion race, due to their officency against top-six sides, where they have only faced defeat once.

The visitors have only been beaten twice on away soil this campaign, also coming away from West Brom, and Bristol City, two sides who currently occupy top-six positions, with maximum points. This impressive away form may put them slight favourites at Bramall Lane, as United have failed to win away at any of the top-half outfits.

Subsequently, the Blades are without versatile centre-half Chris Basham due to his suspension from accumulation of 10 yellow cards. On-loan Marvin Johnson is also unavailable due to terms in his contract with parent club Boro. Although, Scott Hogan may obtain his first United appearance due to the same terms ruling him out of the Aston Villa fixture.

Differently, Pulis will have to assess forward Britt Assombalonga, after he passed a fitness test before the Leeds game. Midfielders Mo Besic and Adam Clayton may also return to the starting 11 after both facing lengthy spells on the bench.

Match facts:

Sheffield United’s 2-1 victory over Boro last term, is their only victory in the two-clubs previous five meetings, with Boro winning the other four.

However, Boro have won just once in their last nine fixtures when travelling to Bramall Lane, in all competitions.

The South-Yorkshire side are unbeaten in the last 12 home league fixtures when playing on a Wednesday evening, with the last falling in 1993 losing 1-0 to Norwich City.

Since Chris Wilder has taken over at Bramall Lane, they have won 70% of their home league fixtures when Skipper Sharp has started (35/50) compared to just 27% when he hasn’t (3/11).

 

 

 

 

post

PREVIEW: Sharp goes head-to-head with Abraham

Sheffield United travel to Villa Park to take on Dean Smith’s out of form Aston Villa, in a bid to knock Leeds United, and Norwich City off the top of the Championship table. 

With Aston Villa’s playoff dreams slowly fading away, having only won one of their last six fixtures. Chris Wilder’s team have an opportunity to take the Championship’s top spot with a win at Villa Park.

The Blades ride into this fixture in great form, facing defeat on one occasion in their last eight league appearances. Sitting in third, only three points behind Leeds, and Norwich, whilst Smith’s Villa start the fixture in ninth, 11 points behind United.

villa-5c-20v-5c_36193052.png

Sheffield United will be without Villa loanee Scott Hogan, with the striker ineligible under his terms of the loan deal. Apart from Hogan, United’s squad is in great physical shape, giving Wilder some big selection calls to make.

On the other hand, midfielder Jack Grealish is still out with a shin injury, but is closing in on his return to first team football, following two months out-of-action. Axel Tuanzebe, Henri Lansbury, and Orjan Nyland are all out, with James Chester, and Andre Green both being assessed ahead of the game.

Defender Tyrone Mings is also available for the visit of Sheffield United, as he faces no retrospective ban from the incident which occurred with Nelson Oliveira in their goal-less draw with Reading.

When asked about Sheffield United’s squad, Villa manager Smith, responded: “I know a few of their players, I sold him a few centre-halves in Jack O’Connell, and John Egan, so i know them well and i’m not surprised to see them where they are.”

Additionally, it is evident that the main talking point going into this game is, which of the Championship’s top talismans will come out on top, in the battle between Billy Sharp and Tammy Abraham for the Championship’s golden boot?

sharp-5c-20vs-5_36188984

Statistically, Sharp and Abraham are barely separable. Both scoring an outstanding 19 league goals in 24 league starts. The only attributes splitting the two forwards, is Sharp’s clinical nature in front of goal, as 50% of his shots end up in the back of the net, compared to Abraham’s 30.3%.

Although, the Chelsea loanee dominates Sharp on aerial duels won per 90 minutes, proving his height and aerial awareness is much more impressive than the Blades’ skipper.

Match facts

Sheffield United have scored five goals in their last three away games, whilst Villa haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last six home league ties.

Billy Sharp has scored six out of his last 10 shots in the league for Sheffield United.

In Tammy Abraham’s last seven home appearances, he has managed 12 league goals for Villa.

Irish forward David McGoldrick has been involved in seven goals in his last six Championship starts (5 goals, 2 assists).

 

 

post

Sharp shines again, as United lace pressure on the top two

Sheffield United boosted their automatic promotion hopes with an effortless win over relegation-threatened Bolton Wanderers. 

Chris Wilder’s side as predicted dominated the first half, and we’re unlucky not to take a first half lead. Scottish midfielder John Fleck was denied in the 41st minute, as Bolton’s Gary O’Neil managed to get a last-ditch touch on the ball to send it for a corner.

However, David McGoldrick managed to put the Blades ahead, connecting onto a low-cross from his strike partner Billy Sharp, following a great showing of pace and strength from the skipper. Moments later, the Wanderers came very close to an equaliser but forward Sammy Ameobi was unable to convert Jason Lowe’s whipped cross.

Captain Sharp then went on to secure the three points for his side, with a close-range header following a set-piece situation, which was finely swung into the six-yard box by Ollie Norwood.

Phil Parkinson’s side may have had to leave Bramall Lane empty handed, but an admirable defensive display in front of immense pressure from the Blades, will surely give them some positives to take away.

The opener from McGoldrick was his fifth goal in his last seven appearances for United, his 11th for the season. Whilst, Sharp netted his 19th league goal of the campaign, making them the joint-most prolific strike-pairing in the division, tied on goals with West Brom’s Dwight Gayle, and Jay Rodriguez.

The three points temporarily placed Chris Wilder’s team into second place, although have recently slipped back down to third due to Norwich’s victory at Elland Road. Despite this, United still sit in a fantastic position, only three points behind both Norwich and Leeds with a positive goal difference over their rivals.

Analysing United’s style of play during the game, they again succeeded at controlling and dictating the play for a high percentage of the match, whilst using their natural fitness and short passing ability to wear down Bolton’s aging defence. Their high defensive-line and constant pressure system, also allowed them to dispose Bolton of possession in their own half, proceeding to an instant counter-attack.

sufc-5c-20passi_36038130 (2)

The high amount of passes completed from United’s back three of John Egan, Jack O’Connell, and Chris Basham, also shows how the Blades dominated possession deep. Using their central defenders to hold possession and command the rhythm of the game, before space opened up in the final third.

Additionally, it can’t be ignored how successful Wilder’s side were at creating goal scoring opportunities from set-pieces. Not only, did Sharp’s headed finish come from a Norwood set-piece, but United won 13 corners through the duration of the game, developing several clear-cut chances as a result.

Furthermore in a game which ended 2-0, United only managed two shots on-target all game, which may seem low considering the amount of possession they had throughout the game. Admitting, this also shows the clinicalness of Wilder’s frontline, with Sharp making a career out of making the most out of few chances.

new-5c-20visual_36039329.pngAgainst Bolton, Sharp had fewer touches of the ball than any other Blades player that started the game, but still managed to bag a goal, an assist, and unleash four key passes. Enhancing a classic fox in the box, Sharp proved his ability to control the action, without even touching the ball, solely through his physical presence and movement in the opposition’s half.

Indicating contrast, Sharp didn’t just show his confidence in-front of goal, but also his composure to cut through a defence with his passing ability, as shown with his assist for McGoldrick’s opener.

Conclusively, following this impressive home display the Blades must now prepare for a trip to Villa Park on Friday, as they take out Dean Smith’s out-of-form Aston Villa.

post

How does Chris Wilder’s pressing system differ to Norwich City’s?

With, Chris Wilder looking to bounce back from last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at the Liberty Stadium, an even tougher test is set just right around the corner for the Blades. As this Saturday, Sheffield United will visit Carrow Road, to derail Norwich City’s fantastic first half of the campaign.

Currently sat in second-place, Daniel Farke’s side has brought a new explosive style of the play to the Championship this season. Savouring their energy in the first half, giving them the ability to detonate their pace, and technique onto opponents late into games, when most players are beginning to tire. However, with Chris Wilder and his coaches also demanding such a high level of fitness from his players. Norwich may be in for a scare, as the Blades narrowly sit three points behind them.

Sheffield United Norwich City
Goals Conceded 29 36
Shots Conceded per game 11.3 11.9
Tackles per game 14.5 16.3
Interceptions per game 11.1 9.1
Offsides per game 2.3 1.4
Goals Scored 46 52
Shots per game 12.9 14.5
Shots on-target per game 4.1 5.2
Dribbles per game 5.9 8.7
Fouled per game 9.8 13.7

Firstly, comparing the two Championship powerhouses on a defensive basis, Sheffield United are clearly more structured and disciplined at the back. Conceding less goals, and facing less shots per game, Wilder’s high defensive-line and constant pressing system, has proven to be able to push back opposing attackers into their own half before being intercepted by one of their pressing forwards.

Norwich City primarily set quite a deep back line in the first half, which may play into Sheffield United’s hands, as they look to hold possession and dictate the speed of the game. However, knowing that the Blades’ forwards have a knack of floating offside, Farke may adjust his defence, and lay an ongoing offside trap, in attempt to counter United’s high-pressing system.

Additionally, with the likes of John Egan, and Jack O’Connell laying down a brick wall in front of Dean Henderson’s goal, Wilder and his staff will be confident they can hold out Norwich. In spite of this examining offensive statistics alone, the Canaries’ attack may have too much going forward for United’s defence to handle.

Averaging over 14 shots per game, with at least five of those being on target, Norwich have one of the fiercest frontline’s in the Championship. With their ability to take the ball from deep, and quickly switch the ball to their direct wingers, who average more dribbles per game than any other team in the division. United’s defenders will have to stay disciplined, and avoid lunging into risky tackles, as Norwich’s forwards also have a persistency to hold deep into the opposing backline, making it easy for them to draw fouls in dangerous area.

Sheffield United Norwich City
Possession % 51.6 55.2
Pass Success % 75.9 78.8
Short Passes per game 383 438
Long Passes per game 76 65
Crosses per game 23 17
Aerial duels won per game 24.8 18

Furthermore, comparing each team’s passing styles, it is evident that both teams have a similar philosophy of wanting to dominate possession and look to dictate the play around opponents. Clearly Norwich have seen more success this season, with their ability to play the ball short, and work away at tired defenders, only Leeds United have managed higher possession percentage in the Championship this season.

In order to counter Norwich’s heavy possession-based system, Wilder may have to alter his passing style if he is to have a successful trip to Carrow Road. Undoubtedly, United will utilise their rampaging wing-back and overlapping outside centre backs, which will cause many issues for Norwich. Also, as the Blades average significantly more aerial duels won per game, launching as many crosses and long balls into the box, may show to be effective with Norwich more than likely not expecting a route one style of play from Wilder. Moreover, with the addition of Cardiff forward Gary Madine, the Blades should be able to use his height and strength to their advantage, dominating the ball in the air, whilst Norwich scramble to win back possession.

Sheffield United Norwich City
Goals scored in the first half 19 14
Goals scored in the second half 27 38

Attempting to predict the outcome of this fixture, it is clear Norwich look to sit deep for the entirety of the first half, maintaining possession, whilst wearing down their opposition. Farke then changes the tempo of his team, when he notices his opponents are starting to tire, igniting a high press system which gives Norwich’s attackers the freedom to punish late on in a game.

If Wilder can intercept Norwich’s possession-based system and grab an early lead, this will put pressure on the Canaries to press United in the first half, not allowing Norwich to dictate the tempo of the game. Conclusively, if United can’t score in the first half, Norwich will more than likely take the game into their possession and see out the fixture with a late goal, like they have played all season.