Blades at Brighton: An entertaining meeting of styles on the cards

Brighton vs Blades preview, 3pm 21 Dec 2019

BHASHUXaExpected assists and assists for BHA and Blades players. Pascal Gross stands out. xA explained below.

Brighton sit 13th in the PL with 20 points while United are 7th and have 25. Brighton are much improved on last season and have a more attacking character under Potter, with a league position that appears ‘honest’ (beating teams they should, losing to ones they’re more likely to).

The Blades and Brighton have scored the same number of goals (21) but Brighton have let more in (25, Blades 16). Last eight form is 1.38 points per game (United 1.63).

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In terms of expected goals/against (xG/xGA), Brighton over-perform their xG while xGA is roughly where it should be. United are the other way on this, getting about the number of goals xG says they should while out-performing xGA.

Of the two teams’ individual players, Blades’ summer target Neil Maupay stands out in terms of xG, as seen here.

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The number of shots taken by Brighton is 218 while they have allowed 229, with Sheffield United chalking up 174 and 191 on these counts.

Formation-wise Brighton appear to be very tactically flexible and have employed a wide range of shapes from a 5-4-1, through 4-1-2-1-2, to 3-4-1-2 so far this season. But for the most part 3-4-3 and 4-4-2 have been their preferred basic shape.

All this may point to Graham Potter setting up to suit the opponent at hand and with United almost invariably playing three at the back, BHA could set up similarly.

In terms of style Brighton are happy to play through the thirds or go long, with Pascal Gross a key link in midfield and topping the expected assists (*xA) chart (see top of page).

In terms of directness**, as averaged over all games so far, the two teams are near opposite ends of the scale, with Brighton’s desire to play from the back and build perhaps registering more than a tendency to go long.

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Sheffield United’s high ranking in terms of directness probably masks their tendency to play quite high for periods during games.

It should be an entertaining game. For periods Sheffield United will try to take the game to Brighton and the Seagulls will be happy to start from low down the pitch. Both approaches have risks, of course, so it’s a question of who manages those and takes the opportunities that come.

(* xA or expected assists sees players assigned the xG value of shots that results from their pass)

(** Directness is calculated by the proportion of pass distance that is towards the opponent’s goal divided by total pass distance. Average line is the average of all players’ touches in a game.)

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