Stat attack: teams love playing Sheffield United

Sheffield United has suffered seven losses in their first eight Premier League matches this season, with one draw. This marks a challenging start, reminiscent of the 20/21 season when they were the last top-flight team to endure seven defeats in their opening eight league games. 

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 30: Paul Heckingbottom of Sheffield United during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Sheffield United at London Stadium on September 30, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

Pressure is mounting up on Paul Heckingbottom to dig his team out of the hole they find themselves in. 

Through eight games, the Blades have scored just six goals while conceding 22, but the problems are more underlying than that. 

No penetration 

Heckingbottom’s men are averaging the lowest progressive passes (23 per game) and lowest progressive carries (7 per game) in the league per FBref. Meanwhile they record just 20 final third passes per game and the lowest key passes in the league, resulting in the lowest xG by far. 

It is clear they lack creativity. But why? The Blades have some off-the-cuff type creative players such as James McAtee and Gustavo Hamer. Sheffield United are the only team in the division to average less than 15 shot-creating actions per game. The two players mentioned above are performing roughly six of the 14 actions between them per game. 

Defensive issues 

If you want to stay in the Premier League you have to firstly make sure you can keep the ball out of the back of your net, and the Blades can’t do that. Whenever the opposition attacks, no matter who, there is a noticeable panic in the ranks and that is far from healthy. 

Take Fulham at the weekend for example. They have been very average this season, but against United they looked almost unstoppable in attack. The Cottagers highest xG before gameweek eight was 1.5, they created 2.2 xG against Heckingbottom’s team. 

Sheffield United’s tackling percentage is the second-worst in the Premier League. While they record the highest number of blocks, which is all well and good but that just means the defence is being forced into making last-ditch attempts because of how exposed they are. 

The Blades have already made four errors leading to shots on target, the fourth-most. 

Additionally, United pose the second-worst team in aerial duels with Bournemouth being the worst in the league.

Teams love playing the Blades

Before gameweek eight, Fulham only saw one match this term where they conceded less than one xG, now they have two. They created their highest expected goals (2.2). 

Going back to the first match of the season, Crystal Palace recorded their second-highest xG of the campaign and conceded their least expected goals against so far when playing the Blades. 

Nottingham Forest were next up and they registered their highest xG and lowest xGA of the season. 

Spurs managed to total their second-best xG against United while recording their lowest xGA. 

Newcastle recorded their highest xG of the season and their third-lowest xGA.

West Ham managed to total their third-highest xG and least xGA, when playing the Blades.

That paints a very disturbing picture if you’re a Sheffield United fan. Teams evidently get more joy in attack than usual and in contrast, they are much more comfortable in defence.


Tags Analysis Sheffield United Stats