Before a ball was kicked in the Premier League, Sheffield United’s hopes of staying up was largely dependent on the form of some key defensive players such as Anel Ahmedhodzic and John Egan. However, the form of the two centre-backs has not been good enough through the early weeks of the campaign.
After the 8-0 thrashing by Newcastle United, Ahmedhodzic spoke to foreign media about the “embarrassing” performance:
“Considering how many mistakes we made today, and that it was 8-0, it’s embarrassing. But they deserved to win by so much. We need to fight more. Today we were not ourselves. We didn’t run like we used to and didn’t fight like we usually fight. We just weren’t that focused, and if you’re not focused in the best league in the world, you’re going to lose this big.”
The performances so far from the Bosnian international have not been up to the standards in which he set himself last season in the Championship. He’s already made a couple of errors in different aspects of games which have then led to conceding a goal.
Egan is in the same boat. And from the new Blades captain, he definitely should be setting the standards. Another duty of a captain is to rally the team and we certainly didn’t see that last Sunday – we actually saw the opposite. The lack of fight when the scoreline read 0-3 was a massive concern from a team that you’d associate with being hard-working.
West Ham’s set piece threat
Things will not get any easier for the two centre-backs in question because they have to face one of the best direct teams in the world this weekend, West Ham United.
The Hammers are also a huge threat from set pieces. Last campaign they averaged just over 0.4xG created from set pieces per 90 [Opta]. And then adding James Ward-Prowse over the summer has made them even more of a monster. David Moyes’ team have already created 15 shooting chances from dead-ball deliveries, with two of them resulting in goals [FBref].
In contrast, Sheffield United have given up the most shots from dead-balls than any other team with 24, and they’ve conceded from three of them [Fbref].
United’s defence will have a lot to answer for on Saturday afternoon; after being embarrassed 8-0 on your own patch, playing away to West Ham is one of the last places you want to be going to with a fragile defence.
But, the Blades will have Oli McBurnie back for the weekend who can help the defence out in more than one way: firstly defending set piece deliverers and also providing an out-ball to relieve the pressure from the defence. Although, the former will be an extremely difficult task because of the extraordinary amount of pace and whip Ward-Prowse puts on his deliveries.
There have been numerous rumblings and rumours speculating about the job security of Paul Heckingbottom, those rumours will only increase if the Blades don’t get a positive result and performance.
Ahmedhodzic was asked about those rumours by fotboll skanalen, the defender strongly stated: “I haven’t heard anything, and I don’t focus on such s***.”