Blades vs Newcastle. 5 Dec 2019
Poor at both ends
For the first time this season Sheffield United should, on paper, have too much for the opposition. Caveats based around, “This is the Premier League” and “It’s football; the ball is round” etc do apply, but Newcastle perform badly in some key areas and look like they’ve retreated into a safety-first mode of play.
The long and short of it is they don’t score many goals (four less than the Blades, who are not exactly free-scoring so far this season) and let a lot more in (22 against SUFC’s 13).
That is reflected in expected goals/against since the beginning of the season.
Player xG contributions
In terms of creating goal scoring chances we can look at both teams’ players contributions. And it is truly remarkable to see John Lundstram and David McGoldrick sitting high and right on the chart that measures xG and number of shots (below).
Ultra-cautious home and away
Formation-wise they tend to play 5-4-1 at home and away, although they have started with 4-4-2 a couple of times. They may go for 5-3-2 at Bramall Lane, however, as they did at Wolves.
Newcastle are a real outlier when it comes to pressing and average line held by their players. They appear to hardly press at all and rely heavily on counter attacking. They are the second most direct team in the league (behind Burnley).
Below is a passmap for their away win at West Ham. Remarkably, they got three goals from so few passes in West Ham’s final third.
It also goes to show they can be a threat — as can any team in this division — but the numbers don’t seem to indicate they are consistently dangerous.
Early season lessons?
If we look at their directness over time since the beginning of the season, we can see that Newcastle have settled into their current style. A couple of losses followed by a win against Spurs in August may well have convinced Bruce and his team that sitting deep and being very direct is the answer. We can’t know how intentional all this has been but it certainly is how they’v ended up playing.
There wouldn’t seem to be much of an option for Chris Wilder than to go for it early on against Newcastle. The more a goal against forces them to come forward the more we are likely to punish them.
But please don’t forget the caveats at the top of the page.
|team||Newcastle Utd||Sheffield Utd|