Tag Archives: Sheffield United

Match PREVIEW: Wolves vs Sheffield United

This weeks Sunday afternoon kick off is set up to be anything but relaxing, with two of the most in form Premier League teams going head to head at the Molineux.

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McBurnie celebrates late equaliser against Manchester United last weekend.

Both teams will enter the fixture on the back of 3-3 score lines; Wolves progressing through Europe midweek and United gaining one point in a game where they perhaps should have taken all three. The supporters will certainly be hoping for a repeat of the exciting performances both teams have delivered since the beginning of the season.

Wolves fans have certainly enjoyed watching prolific forward Raul Jimenez and tricky winger Adama Traore who have 12 goals between them this season, which has allowed Nuno’s team to balance both Premier League and European football this season. Jimenez has been praised by Nuno for his successes in front of goal this season with reference to his clinical finishing and aerial threat which has galvanised the team throughout the season.

On the other hand Sheffield’s following will not have seen as many goals from their team as Wolves have, but this is not to say it will be a game of out scoring. Sheffield’s immaculate record away from Bramall Lane is only matched by runaway league leaders Liverpool, and no doubt manager Chris Wilder will be putting out his most consistent team to carry forward this record for another week. The wing back positions have become integral for the Blades just as the skilful Edna Stevens, who has shown talent and delivered dangerous balls which have been optimized by the lurking striker in the form of top goal scorer Lys Mousset. The effort shown by the players on the pitch has been replicated within the whole of the South Yorkshire club, which is what has seen Sheffield create many friends already in the their time in the top flight, which is looking to be a lengthy stay.

With two highly respected managers, this fixture is set to be a test of two great footballing minds, a test of strength and talent for the players and a test for the spectators to stay on their seats!

Gunning for the Top Four

Arsenal are a conundrum at the moment. It feels like there definitely is something up with them, but also like everything might just be going alright as Unai Emery attempts to move on from the Arsene Wenger era.

Opinion is generally split on whether the Spaniard is doing a good job or not, although last night’s 1-0 defeat to Sheffield United seems like it may have sent Arsenal fans over the edge. In fairness to Emery though, annoying the Arsenal fans doesn’t take much if you’re their manager.

The loss at Bramall Lane saw the Gunners spurn the opportunity to go third – and if they had won then perspectives today would probably be greatly different. 

But they did not, and their defeat was against a Sheffield United side who are not to be underestimated. The Blades are organised, well drilled and constantly surprising the Premier League with innovative tactics. It’s probably safe to assume that we’re all now up to date on the functions of overlapping centre backs.

Watching the game, it really didn’t feel like Arsenal were ever going to score. To use that old cliche, they could have kept playing till the next morning and still not have found a way through. 

Even recapping over the short burst of highlights Sky Sports graces us with on YouTube, there is very little for Arsenal to shout about from the game. Whoever was editing that video would have had a hard job scraping together three minutes of action. 

But it’s not like the Gunners lack any abundance of attacking talent. They have Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe as a ‘first choice’ front three. Then they also have the young talents of Bukayo Saka and Joe Willock. 

Behind them in midfield, they have the aggressive pairing of Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi, as well as Dani Ceballos adding a bit more technical quality. 

With this considered, you feel that Emery should be doing better. It seems he is struggling to find a system to incorporate and fully utilise the talents of his squad. Sheffield United were superb on Monday night but with the quality Arsenal have, they really should have created more. 

If only they had a little bit more class in the final third. A proven creative, an assists machine. Someone who, preferably, had proven themselves on the world stage. 

The above is, of course, a thinly veiled reference to Meszut Ozil – the forgotten man at the Emirates. It’s only three years since he recorded 19 assists in one season, and it seems Arsenal are in need of his creativity now. 

But he generally remains on the bench or out of the squad, with Emery tight lipped about what exactly is going on. It’s a mystery that has, unbelievably, seemed to unite Arsenal fans behind Ozil. 

There are certainly failings on Emery’s part, but there are some things that just haven’t gone his way.

The Gunners have generally failed to recruit well in defence of late, and what they have to show for the fruits of their labour is a centre back pairing of Sokratis and David Luiz. This partnership has become something of a calamity duo, with Luiz’s failings in one on one situations becoming ever more apparent. 

And then there are the early season injuries to Hector Bellerin and new signing Kieran Tierney going against Emery. Arsenal look, on paper, relatively strong at full back with these two fit. Bellerin’s return is imminent while Tierney has apparently recovered. Emery’s unwillingness to throw him straight in, though, is yet another thing that is angering fans. 

So while some things are certainly not helpful for Emery, there are ways in which he could be doing better. Some fluidity and creativity is needed up front, and the ex-PSG manager desperately needs to find the best system for his talented front line. Most likely, it will involve some difficult decisions on who to leave out. 

So in the sense that Emery has gotten some good attackers and is blooding young prospects (which, thanks to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, we now know is the best thing in the world), he is doing pretty well.

But there is a lack of coherency and guile, as well as floundering attempts to find the best system for his side. And not to forget the shortcomings at centre back. So there’s some good, but also some bad.

With a fully fit and firing squad, Arsenal should really be aiming for the top four. The Gunners will not want another season confined to the Europa League. 

Premier League Review

I am starting this week’s review with the match between Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday night because it had a big talking point.

The game finished 1-1 with goals from Anthony Martial and a trademark long range effort by Ruben Neves. The result itself was interesting enough as its evidence that Wolves aren’t far away from the top six.

The talking point came when United were awarded a penalty with the score at 1-1 and last week’s scorer of a penalty Marcus Rashford went into conversation with Paul Pogba. The result of the chat resulted in Pogba taking the penalty and then subsequently having the spot kick well saved.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revealed after the game that the penalty duties are being shared between Rashford and Pogba and that “whoever feels confident on the day” should take it. This for me is a risky and strange policy as it adds an unnecessary seed of doubt and pressure to the taker, which showed its force again in United’s next match on Saturday, More on that later.

Moving onto Saturday’s roundup which I am starting at Anfield where the only two teams with 100% records in the league went head to head as Liverpool faced Arsenal.

Liverpool were controlling much of the possession and territory but Arsenal created good openings on the break from record signing Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

In the process, interestingly, Pepe became the first player to successfully dribble past Virgil Van Dijk breaking a record that has stood for well over a year, no mean feat. It has also become more evident that Liverpool are not performing as well in defence without Allison in goal and his deputy Adrian almost cost them another goal, as just like last weekend, one of his clearances went straight to the Gunners but luckily for him, Aubameyang, uncharacteristically, lacked composure.

Despite all of this, Liverpool’s territorial advantage paid off with them taking the lead through a Joel Matip’s header just before half-time.

After the break, David Luiz cost Arsenal any hopes, by first tugging Mohammad Salah’s shirt in the penalty area, with Salah himself scoring the penalty. It was the Egyptian once again who embarrassed Luiz by the touchline as the Brazilian needlessly dived in and Salah chipped the ball over him before running to the edge of the box and superbly curling into the bottom corner just before the hour. This ended the contest, although Arsenal did get a late consolation through Lucas Torreira.

The result means Liverpool are the only side in England with a 100% record and continues Arsenals poor record at Liverpool, however they can take something from the chances they created.

Now back to Manchester United who were playing Crystal Palace at Old Trafford, a venue where Palace hadn’t won since 1989.

United were dominant as expected, but couldn’t find the break through and Palace broke after 32 minutes which left Jordan Ayew one-on-one with David De Gea, who silenced the crowd by coolly slotting home.

There was yet more United penalty drama in the second-half when they were awarded a spot kick when Scott McTominay was bundled over. Everyone waited to see who would take the kick following Monday’s drama and this time it was back to Marcus Rashford.

However, he suffered the same fate as Pogba seeing his penalty cannon off the inside of the post. This only further strengthens my argument that Solskjaer’s method is an incorrect one. United continued to push and found an equaliser through summer signing Daniel James, who scored in consecutive home matches by curling in a delightful equaliser in the 89th minute following Pogba’s good tackle on Wilfred Zaha and with a neat build-up from Rashford and Anthony Martial.

The Red Devil’s thought they could still win it but were caught with too many players forward allowing Zaha to burst forward and find full-back, Patrick van Aanholt, who netted the winner in the 93rd minute, thumping in as the ball broke loose.

The result means United have picked up just one point from the last two matches and are showing they may struggle to get into the top four once again, a thought I had in pre-season.

Chelsea and Frank Lampard headed to Carrow Road to face a vibrant and confident Norwich side following their 3-1 win over Newcastle United looking for their first win of the season and Lampard’s first as a Premier League manager. Lampard continued to show faith in striker, Tammy Abraham and his decision paid off with the youngster scoring two excellent goals to open his Chelsea account. The first came after just three minutes, however, it didn’t take long for Norwich to hit back though, as just three minutes later, Todd Cantwell latched onto Teemu Pukki’s cut back.

Chelsea restored their lead 11 minutes after Cantwell’s equaliser for Norwich, Mount – cut inside the hosts’ defence and unleashed an unstoppable shot high into the net for his second goal of the season.

In a frantic first half Norwich equalised again and it was no surprise that it was Pukki, who scored his fifth goal of the season. Despite Norwich’s second leveller, Chelsea continued to pressure their opponents’ shaky defence; Mount and Christian Pulisic both saw efforts go wide within moments of the second half getting under way.

Abraham’s second goal saw him become the youngest Chelsea player to score twice in a Premier League fixture since 1998, twisting and turning and tying Grant Hanley and Jamal Lewis in knots before firing an unstoppable drive past Tim Krul.

The Blues thought they had scored again when Kurt Zouma poked a loose ball home, but it was ruled out by the video assistant referee after substitute Olivier Giroud was judged to have fouled the Norwich keeper, Tim Krul.

Lampard now has his all-important first win as Chelsea boss and will be looking to build on this victory.

Watford against West Ham is a match between two sides hoping to challenge in the top half of the league table.

However, only one of the two sides looked like they had that in them in this match at Vicarage Road and that was West Ham.

They have some terrific creative midfielders and their record signing striker, Sebastien Haller scored his first two goals for the Hammers as they ran out 3-1 winners.

Mark Noble’s third-minute penalty set West Ham on their way to their first win of the season after Manuel Lanzini had been fouled by Abdoulaye Doucoure.

Watford responded with a well-worked Andre Gray goal, with the forward drilling home a right-foot shot from Will Hughes’ pass.

It was then Haller who took centre stage as he led the line in exemplary fashion and contributed to all three West Ham goals. He displayed his predatory instincts that allowed him to comfortably claim his first goal for Manuel Pellegrini’s side before acrobatically doubling his tally.

Watford did create plenty of chances mainly through Gerard Deulofeu who had seven shots on goal, with only a close-range strike that hit the West Ham crossbar finding the target, alongside Hughes’ extraordinary miss from a yard out after Gray had squared the ball with the score at 1-1, that summed up the hosts’ lack of potency in attack.

At the other end the presence of Haller, Anderson and Lanzini provided too much power, pace and guile for the Watford defence to cope with. Gracia’s side now face a challenging sequence of fixtures – with a home game against Arsenal sandwiched between trips to Newcastle and reigning champions Manchester City – having shipped 41 goals in their last 18 matches.

At the same stage last term Watford had collected nine points after an impressive start, but a pointless return this time around represents a complete reversal of fortune.

Sheffield United were looking to back up their first win back in the top flight but came up against a Leicester City side that were just too good for them on the day.

Ayoze Perez robbed defender Chris Basham before James Maddison played a deft pass with the outside of his foot into space, allowing Jamie Vardy to race in and power home left footed. Vardy – a boyhood Sheffield Wednesday fan – had been booed throughout and duly cupped his ears in celebration. Billy Sharp and McBurnie’s second half introduction seemed to raise home spirits and suddenly Leicester’s midfield seemed unable to close spaces as quickly. It was Oliver McBurnie, who scored the equaliser from Sam Baldock’s pin-point delivery – proving why the Blades paid Swansea £20m for the striker.

They were level for just eight minutes, however, as substitute, Harvey Barnes, scored a marvellous winner six minutes after coming on, Barnes fired a half-volley from the edge of the box which flew past home keeper Dean Henderson.

Saturday’s final match saw a south coast derby as Brighton met Southampton, Brighton have started the season impressively, whilst Southampton headed into the encounter pointless and this showed in the early stages as Neil Maupay and Martin Montoya both had chances.

However, the game swung the visitors’ way when Florin Andone was dismissed following a rash challenge that left Yan Valery withering in agony near the halfway line. A challenge that Brighton manager Graham Potter said he “can’t defend”.

The Seagulls responded well, initially, with Lewis Dunk’s header chalked off by VAR, but the Saints capitalised on their numerical advantage in the second half. They took the lead through Moussa Djenepo, who came on as a substitute eight minutes into the second half and his impact was almost instant, cutting in from the left and curling into the top corner just two minutes after entering the fray.

A late Nathan Redmond goal secured the points for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side.

Onto Sunday’s matches and a Tottenham Hotspur side buoyed by gaining a point at Manchester City took on a Newcastle United side with no points and were embarrassed by Norwich last weekend, surely this could only end one way. In fact, Newcastle looked like a completely different team from last weekend, credit to Steve Bruce for that, they were superb in defence and caused Spurs problems on the counter attack.

It was from one of these counters that they took a surprise lead through record signing Joelinton, this his first goal since joining. Spurs were caught with too many players forward and Joelinton controlled Christian Atsu’s through pass beautifully before drilling past Hugo Lloris.

Spurs enjoyed the majority of possession and territory but couldn’t find the creativity to unlock an excellent back five of Newcastle.

Cristian Eriksen and Giovani lo Celso, both started on the bench and came on together after an hours to try and add this creativity.

Lo Celso, nearly made the difference with a pass to Harry Kane in the penalty area and Kane went down under a challenge by Jamal Lascelles.

The Newcastle defender appeared to slip and dive across Kane, as he knew he had no chance of getting to the ball, clever or reckless the referee and the VAR decided it wasn’t a penalty.

Spurs created more opportunities the best of which fell to Lucas Moira, who shot over from eight yards after being found by former Newcastle player Moussa Sissoko, who was unsurprisingly roundly booed throughout by the toon army crowd.

Spurs couldn’t find a way through and from evidence of this and other weekend results we could be heading towards another two horse race for the title.

There was a meeting between the last two sides to finish 7th in the league at Molineux, where Burnley were the visitors to Wolves.

It was the Clarets who were the more effective side and eventually took the lead through an excellent strike from Ashley Barnes, his fourth goal in three Premier League games this season.

Burnley were denied a second goal when Rui Patricio produced an excellent save to keep out Chris Wood, while Ben Mee headed against the bar with the rebound coming off Wolves defender Ryan Bennett and hitting the post.

However, Wolves were awarded a penalty in the dying moments when Erik Pieters fouled Raul Jimenez.

After a video assistant referee check, Jimenez stepped up to calmly roll the ball past Nick Pope and earn Wolves a third successive Premier League draw.

Despite this lacklustre performance from Wolves, I wouldn’t be worried that they are set to suffer like Burnley did last season in the league due to being in European Competition.

The Final Match of the weekend was a routine win for champions Man City away at Bournemouth. Another goal apiece for Aguero and Sterling meant they lead 2-0 at half time. Bournemouth rallied and substitute Harry Wilson’s superb 25-yard free-kick raised hopes of a fight-back, However Aguero pounced for City’s third after good work from Silva. Wilsons strike means he has scored two stunners in his two first premier league matches.

Match Preview: Sheffield United V Nottingham Forest

Sheffield United will be looking to bounce back from Saturday’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Millwall when they face Nottingham Forest at Bramall Lane, on Friday lunchtime, kick-off 12.30pm.

The Blades, who have drawn the last two games, currently sit in third of the Sky Bet Championship following back to back 1-1 draws with Birmingham City and Millwall respectively, putting a dent in their hopes of automatic promotion to the Premier League.

Following the draw with Millwall, Blades boss Chris Wilder will be without three of his key players for the clash with Martin O’Neill’s Forest, defenders Chris Basham and John Egan are ruled out through injury and suspension respectively whilst club captain Billy Sharp has also been ruled out after he limped off during the draw with the Lions due to a hamstring injury.

Wilder confirmed the news of both Basham and Sharp would miss the game, at his press conference on Wednesday morning, saying: “Billy is out for the weekend and so is Bash, so that’s disappointing for myself and the football club.

“I’ve been consistent with my approach throughout the season, people have injuries and suspensions and we have to get over it, we’ve got good enough to come in and replace them.

“We will continue to monitor and assess, short-term they are out, but we will see how they go from Monday onwards, with a view to Ipswich.” he added.

Wilder continued:“The players were as disappointed as any supporter last Saturday, they care as much as anyone, including me.

“There is a lot of the line for them, individually and collectively, those boys care and they want to win.

“We’ve not been given anything, we’ve had to earn everything to get to this position and everything we’ve achieved has been earnt by having a go and coming roaring back to disappointments.”

The Blades will be hoping to get back to winning ways to try and help their quest of promotion as they battle with Leeds United for the second automatic promotion spot alongside Norwich City.

Nottingham Forest will be looking to get back to winning ways after three straight defeats when they face Sheffield United on Friday afternoon.

Forest boss Martin O’Neill will be looking for his side to respond to their three straight defeats against Chris Wilder’s highflying Sheffield United.

Since their last win against Swansea City on 30th March the Reds have lost three straight games against Rotherham United, Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn Rovers scoring two goals and conceding seven goals.

The Reds, who have an outside chance of the play-offs this season, currently sit in 11th in the table following one win in five games and will be hoping to claim a second win over the Blades this season following a 1-0 win at the City Ground in November 2018 thanks to Lewis Grabban’s 69th minute winner.

Martin O’Neill will know his side will have to be at their upmost best to beat Chris Wilder’s side at Bramall Lane if they are to have a chance of the play-offs this season, however, if he loses this game then the owners could end up running out of paticence with the former Reds midfielder as defeat at Bramall Lane will be four defeats in their last five games.

The fixture will be a tough test for both sides, however, Sheffield United may just have enough to beat MON’s Reds at Bramall Lane.

Prediction: Sheffield United 2-0 Nottingham Forest

You can catch the fixture live on Sky Sports Football and Main Event from 12.00pm.

Sky Bet Championship: The Race for Promotion

The race for promotion to the Premier League is hotting up with only eight games remaining of the regular Sky Bet Championship campaign starting this Saturday.

It’s a three-horse race for the automatic promotion spots with Norwich City, Sheffield United and Leeds United all battling it out for the top two spots in the division.

Leeds and Norwich have been the top two for most of the campaign this year, however, Leeds fell down to third prior to the international break following a 1-0 home defeat to Sheffield United which leaves Marcelo Bielsa’s side one point off the Blades heading into the final eight games of the regular season.

Here I analyse each of the teams chances of automatic promotion this season

Norwich City
The Canaries currently sit five points clear at the top of the table following the win over relegation threatened Rotherham United prior to the break.

Daniel Farke’s worked tremendously well throughout the campaign with a squad which finished 14th in the table last season and he lost key players from that season in the likes of James Maddison, Wes Hoolahan, Josh Murphy and Russell Martin who all played a big part.

Coming into the club is Finland striker Teemu Pukki, signed on a free from Danish outfit Brøndby on a three-year deal, Pukki has really took to life in the Championship scoring 25 goals in the division this season and for me if Norwich are to gain automatic promotion from the Championship the Finnish striker needs to find his scoring boots again towards the end of the campaign.

Remaining Games
30/3 Middlesbrough (A)
6/4 QPR (H)
10/4 Reading (H)
14/4 Wigan (A)
19/4 Sheffield Wednesday (H)
22/4 Stoke City (A)
27/4 Blackburn Rovers (H)
5/5 Aston Villa (A)

Out of their remaining fixtures I believe if Teemu Pukki finds his goalscoring boots and Norwich win four or more they’ve secured automatic promotion.

Sheffield United
The Blades are currently in second spot behind Norwich City and one point above Leeds United in the table so far following a surprise 1-0 triumph over Leeds United at Elland Road prior to the internationals.

Chris Wilder has got his side well-drilled and organised this season and the Blades have impressed me quite a lot this season when I’ve seen them, however, I still feel that they lack quality in the midfield and parts of that showed against Leeds prior to the international break.

A number of players have played really well and Wilder has worked his magic as his side finished 14th last season and are now in a three-way battle for automatic promotion.

Wilder has brough in some good players in the summer and January transfer windows including Oliver Norwood and John Egan, however, I believe that Billy Sharp is the Blades key man this season.

The former Doncaster and Leeds striker has netted on 22 occasions this season and has worked brilliantly with either David McGoldrick or Gary Madine alongside him in attack this season.

Remaining Games
30/3 Bristol City (H)
6/4 Preston (A)
10/4 Birmingham (A)
13/4 Millwall (H)
19/4 Nottingham Forest (H)
22/4 Hull City (A)
27/4 Ipswich (H)
5/5 Stoke City (A)

I believe Sheffield United have a chance of promotion, they need to match Leeds United’s results if they have any chance of promotion from the division.

Leeds United
The Whites are currently one point behind Sheffield United in third in the table so far following a surprise 1-0 defeat against Sheffield United at Elland Road prior to the internationals.

Marcelo Bielsa has got his side play high intensity football and this season it seems to have helped the players who were already at the club from last year and he’s worked tiredlessly to get them playing with the high pressing game for the full 90 minutes.

Bielsa’s sides are known for burning out, however, the Whites don’t seem to be showing this yet this season and it would normally start to show at this point of the season with his previous clubs.

Out of the squad that Bielsa has only Macedonian International Gjanni Alioski has played every minute of games that the club has played in and he’s still going right to the last minute for both club and country this season.

The player of the year so far at Leeds United, for me, is Kalvin Phillips. Phillips is dubbed as the “Yorkshire Pirlo” amongst the Elland Road faithful and has been impressive in his performances in defensive midfield or at centre back in which Bielsa has transformed him into this season.

The Whites have struggled with injuries this campaign otherwise I firmly believe they would be already in the automatic promotion spots heading into the final eight games.

Remaining Games
30/3 Millwall (H)
6/4 Birmingham (A)
9/4 Preston (A)
13/4 Sheffield Wednesday (H)
19/4 Wigan (H)
22/4 Brentford (A)
27/4 Aston Villa (H)
5/5 Ipswich (A)

I believe that Leeds will just pip Sheffield United to second spot in the table and go up automatically.

Automatic Promotion Predictions: Norwich City and Leeds United
Play-Off Winner Prediction: Sheffield United