In the run-up to the festive period Sheffield United were underperforming.
Don’t get me wrong, we were outperforming pre-season expectations and what we should be able to do with our wage bill, but we had slipped from our early season exploits and our points-per-game tally was down to about 1.3 in mid-December.
At the same time, the Blades as a team fell short of expected goals figures. Billy was exceeding his xG but no other striker in the squad came near.
I documented lots of those numbers and my thoughts about whether we needed a plan B in a previous blog post.
I’ll talk about that more in another post perhaps, but for now let’s look at what Blades fans got for christmas.
That present was that we over-achieved our xG, and that precisely what is needed to maintain promotion form.
As a team, Sheffield United went from 14th and three less goals than our xG to 8th, and exceeding our xG by about 3.5.
At the Sharp end, as it were, that was largely the result of two players performing brilliantly.
On the one hand, Billy knocked in four goals over christmas and new year. He was already exceeding his xG, but goes into game 28 with xG of 13.05 and 16 real world goals.
The big story, however, is David McGoldrick closing the gap between what the numbers say he should do and what he actually achieves.
I’ll admit I was beginning to think Didsy more of a creator (and a fast, skilled, exciting one, at that) than a converter of chances, but the recent run of games rubbed that one in my face.
Before christmas, McGoldrick’s xG (11.66 after 22 games) was better than Billy’s (10.21 after 22) but he’d only scored 6 goals compared to Sharp’s 10.
But, in late Dec/early Jan, Didsy netted four times to take his xG to 12.82 and real-world goal tally to 10.
That run of results saw Sheffield United hit second spot in the table and 2 points per game in form terms.
So, to compare with chart I generated before christmas, after 22 games, here are visualisations for 27 games.
To start with, xG. Blades still keep good company.
In terms of expected goals against (xGA) Blades have gone from fourth best to the best.
That makes for good reading when it comes to expected goal difference, with Blades top of the table.
That wasn’t being translated into actual goal difference, and SUFC ranked 5th, however.
But, with 10 goals in four league games and only one in reply Sheffield United move up to 2nd in the Championship in terms of GD.
The hope now is that we can sustain this progress for the coming months. This season’s Championship has seen the top of the table spots change hands many times. Will some clear contenders emerge, and can Sheffield United be one of them?