Sheffield United Preview: Blunting the Blades

Football returns tonight with the trip to Sheffield United. It’s not quite a case of getting the flags and buntings out but there’s certainly a lot of relief. The interminable dullness of the international break is over; proper football is back.

It’s a tricky fixture to return with. United are poor at home, good on the road; the sort of team we usually let push us over with the promise of a tickle on the tummy later as Watford will attest.

Therein is the concern from a supporter’s point of view about the number of shots we allow opponents. Even if we take points, it remains high each game. In itself, that isn’t an issue when you’re winning but it’s the sort of tomfoolery in a tactical sense which will trip you up on a bad day. Or night.

In essence, while ‘big club braggadocio’ outwardly claims three points, inwardly there are niggling doubts which are amplified with every misplaced pass or missed tackle.

That is, however, Unai Emery’s Arsenal. A skittish group, nervous to the point of timidity and playing with a tactical straitjacket, despite the squad featuring some very talented individuals. It’s why I don’t think his will be a long tenure at the club.

Defensively, there’s a sense we aren’t sure what those tactics are. It’s improving to some degree with Calum Chambers at right-back. I think he’ll remain there tonight with Hector Bellerin back on Thursday.

Bizarrely, Alexandre Lacazette is being cued up for a return straight into the starting line-up.

Previously, we were cautious in players coming back from injury. It was a massive improvement on rushing players back only to hear their hamstrings twang.

Rushing back key players is the sign of a coach struggling to find answers to his problems.

All Change?

The usual tinkering in the midfield is one of the few changes I’d expect Emery to make this evening. Kieran Tierney is set for his first Premier League appearance with Saed Kolasinac getting used to cup and European football.

There is a weight of expectation on the young Scot’s shoulders, that he will bring some defensive balance to the team as well as attacking subtlety compared to the Bosnian’s bull in a china shop approach.

It leaves the line-up this evening as:

Leno; Chambers, Luiz, Sokratis, Tierney; Torreira, Xhaka, Guendouzi; Pepe, Aubameyang, Saka

There is a more in-depth look at tonight’s game in my preview for Novibet.

A win is important to us. We face three tricky fixtures in the coming weeks, none of which we won last season. Indeed, we took just a solitary point from the visit of Wolves to the Emirates.

Three points this evening takes us back to third place and keeps a healthy gap between ourselves and Tottenham. Despite the impressive early-season form of Leicester and Palace, it is Chelsea and Spurs who remain our rivals for a top-four place come the season’s end.

With one floundering at the moment, it is important for us to pile on the pressure with three points. In our own ramshackle way, it keeps us in control of our destiny. Not that it counts for much. We were in control of our destiny last season but ended up fifth and humiliated in Baku.

However, despite our obvious problems, we’ve got ourselves into a good position in the disjointed half of the season. Now, the only inconvenience is the television schedule which shoves us from pillar to post, not allowing any routine to settle in beyond Thursday night football.

Final Thoughts

That’s as much of an incentive to get involved with Champions League football as anything else. It brings a settled routine; clubs know they are playing on Saturday or Sunday. Monday Night Football is for also-rans and ne’er do wells.

VAR is our biggest enemy tonight. It’s been emboldened by ineptitude this weekend; PGMO, the FA and the clubs are all happy with the way it is working so expect contentious decisions to be avoided. As Watford found this weekend, even ‘clear and obvious’ mistakes don’t get overturned.

On a lighter note, there is a lovely piece reminiscing about that save by David Seaman in The Athletic.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

100 thoughts on “Sheffield United Preview: Blunting the Blades

  1. jonnygunner says:

    I’ve missed our team playing….not the international nonsense.
    Very much looking forward to tonights match.
    Thanks for the write up YW

  2. andy1886 says:

    One immediate question occurs. What TV idiot thought that this game would be an attractive one for their audience? I can’t think of a single reason why any neutral would want to view this game. Traditionally it would have all the hallmarks of a very low scoring game where a dull 1-1 would actually exceed expectations. I know that The Blades aren’t the dire stifling team of old but if this turns into a goal fest (even with our defensive frailties) I will eat my hat.

    That said we may nick a win or scrape a draw, surely we’re good enough to do that. If our competitors are struggling we need to take advantage because we’ll have difficult times too at some point. Hoping that Pepe has a good game and kicks on as well.

  3. Ferkov says:

    Match day. Excellent. Early finish and start the afternoon prep. COYG

  4. Ferkov says:

    andy1886,

    Heard the audio footage of Mikey Checkout, from half time ? Priceless.Lost his shit.

  5. C says:

    jonnygunner,

    I hope we keep Ceballos too…your right about Bill he will say he doesn’t score goals so he’s shit

  6. YW says:

    Andy

    I hate Bramall Lane. Whenever I’ve been, it’s been cold, damp and a crap game. Never seen us lose, however.

    Hillsborough, conversely, I always enjoyed. Until the league cup a few years ago…

  7. C says:

    Good post Yogi.

    Hopefully the boys are up for it. Sead being dropped for Tierney was always set to happen but this is through no fault of his play. Same will happen with Chambers at RB once Bellerin is fully fit.

    Good to have Lacazette back and maybe he comes off the bench as a sub or features on Thursday. I know Saka has played well, but I would love to see Gabriel get a match having showed goals, creativity and the pressing work rate to couple with his skills.

  8. Blue Yonder says:

    A visit to the NE has always been a time to fret but, these days, that can be said about any road trip. Or home game, for that matter. At least we don’t have to visit Stoke for a while.
    The thing that really bothers me about tonight is the prospect of the Unholy Three starting. Sokratis, Bob and Xhaka. I’m OK with the Greek, just not paired with Luiz.

  9. C says:

    Team news is in

    Leno
    Chambers—Sokaritis—-Luiz—-Sead
    Xhaka—–Guendouzi—Willock
    Pepe—–Aubameyang—-Saka

    Bench: Martinez, Holding, Tierney, Torriera, Ceballos, Gabriel, Lacazette

  10. C says:

    Isn’t it interesting that people are killing Arsenal yet…….if we win today, we are 1 point off of Citeh sitting 3rd with our ONLY defeat to Liverpool with all our injuries and Xhaka.

  11. andy1886 says:

    Unadventurous line up but good to see Willock in the side. Should add a little more solidity to the midfield.

    Bramall Lane is one of those odd places that feels like it’s way ‘oop north’ even though it’s actually as close to Nottingham and Derby as it is to Leeds or Manchester.

  12. andy1886 says:

    C,

    Quite honestly any combination that doesn’t include Xhaka would be better.

  13. C says:

    andy1886,

    In the current PL I agree. Think he is perfectly suited for Germany and Serie A in that Pirlo-ish role.

  14. JonJon says:

    if we played expressive free flowing footy i would be a bit apprehensive about visiting bramall lane on a cold monday night.

    it would have 70% possession to us with 20 shots on target but 1-0 to them written all over it.

    as it stands though with the negative shit scared tactics we currently use its got more typical championship/division 1 game written all over it and those type of games normally go to the team with the best finisher.

    i think we’ll knick it – just…..

  15. Adam Singh says:

    Not sure willock xhaka and Guendouzi works as a midfield 3. But we should still have enough to get 3 points today.

  16. Buckagh says:

    C,

    C
    You are dead right there
    What he sees in Xhaka is a mystery to me

  17. consolsbob says:

    I wonder when we will see our ‘new’ defence in it’s entirety?

  18. consolsbob says:

    Ffs its the Dean and Mariner show.

  19. C says:

    Pepe with a superb ball just begging to be tapped in

  20. C says:

    consolsbob,

    I think in 2 PL matches. Tierney, Holding and Bellerin gets a full 90 in the EL then following Palace.

  21. Bufallo says:

    only takes 3 corners to put it in a decent position…

  22. consolsbob says:

    Why does Rugby with TMO get it so right and football with VAR gets it so wrong? That would have been pulled up and a penalty given if the system worked as it could and should.

    This is why I never wanted VAR. it is just a smokescreen for incompetent officials.

  23. C says:

    How about a midfielder find some space to receive the ball from Leno…

  24. Paulie Walnuts says:

    What’s the point of VAR ?

    Obvious pen for a shirt pull

  25. JonJon says:

    do we not give fouls when someone gets their shirt nearly ripped off as they are jumping for a header in the penalty box anymore?

    whats VAR for?

    pointless.

  26. C says:

    Pepe doing and just missed the finish off a great ball from Sead.

  27. JonJon says:

    should have scored.

    two big chances… ref missed the first, pepe missed the 2nd

    may have handed the game to them.. need those to go in

  28. C says:

    1 yellow from a suspension and Xhaka does that….

  29. consolsbob says:

    To be fair, this is a better performance. There is some evidence of a coherent gameplan!

  30. JonJon says:

    midfield isnt struggling C

    its deliberate….emery tells them to give up the middle so we can counter attack…

    became obvious ages ago..

  31. C says:

    JonJon,

    I was more refencing the passing. I get the counter attacking but that can only happen when your playing quickly and connecting passes.

  32. C says:

    Ofcourse they would. Lacazette for Saka, Ceballos for Xhaka and lets go at them.

  33. JonJon says:

    somehow knew that was going to happen.

    oh well

  34. C says:

    Saka got caught thinking the foul was coming and got a yellow for diving.

    Freddie gets a yellow.

  35. Spike says:

    C,

    Didn’t they realise it’s all about Mike Dean???

  36. C says:

    Don’t think it was a dive but think he was thinking he was going to get some sort of contact.

  37. YW says:

    TBH, it looked like a dive. I’d have been baying for blood if an opponent did that to us. Doesn’t excuse Dean not booking the United player for a worse dive earlier.

  38. Spike says:

    YW,

    What is the point of Emery?

    Hes just an empty non description vessel of a coach.

    Theres been absolutely no improvements and the stubborn cunt keeps faith with mediocre under performers regardless.

  39. C says:

    YW,

    It was certainly not a foul and he looked to be bracing himself for contact that never came for sure. Tried the dark arts and got a Dean yellow for it.

  40. Paulie Walnuts says:

    Predictable, tepid display.

    Dreadful miss apart, much better from Pepe. He’s actually showing some style tonight.

    Xhaka still stealing a living from the club but he’s not solely to blame.

    If you didn’t know different you’d think Arsene was still in the dugout. Trying to zip up his coat. Emery seems to be able to manage that but not much else.

  41. Bufallo says:

    Yup, the captain C and maybe bring on Ozil…..oh wait…..

  42. YW says:

    Spike

    I don’t have long enough to live to ponder the question. Suffice to say, I don’t think there will be a third Emery season.

  43. C says:

    YW,

    Funny that with us sitting 3rd and still yet to see a team with Lacazette, Tierney, Bellering, Holding and Torriera in it.

  44. Spike says:

    YW,

    It’s so weird.
    His teams are as dire and tedious as Mourinho or Alladyce but without any defensive onus and they’re as fragile and shaky defensively as Wengers later teams, but without any of the attacking flair!

    That is a mighty impressive trick to manage that!!

  45. Spike says:

    C,

    Were talking about a guy who picks Xhaka every week. Hes capable of leaving the other players out as well, I’m sure!

  46. Ras says:

    This repeated exercise of playing out from the back by Arsenal allows Sheff U to push up in defense .

    Everything is being played in front of the Sheff Utd defense .

    Basic football knowledge.,I don’t know about Emery.

  47. consolsbob says:

    It’s the same issue, isn’t it?

    Journey men players on inferior wages, managed by someone with no reputation in the ‘Big’ league, outplaying our very expensive players coached by Emery.

    This has been happening for bloody years.

  48. Spike says:

    consolsbob,

    Surely Freddie coylnt do any worse than Emery?

    What’s IS the point of Emery!!!

  49. C says:

    Why did Sokaritis dive there and the the Sheffield player dived…..

  50. C says:

    Lacazette for Xhaka….now that’s an attacking change

  51. YW says:

    C

    You never will see that quartet in the Premier League either.

  52. consolsbob says:

    I have rarely seen so much talent and money deployed to such little effect.

  53. C says:

    Why take off Pepe and leave on Saka?!? Pepe has looked lively and likely.

  54. Spike says:

    consolsbob,

    Emery should be seriously worrying about his job.

    Yet another insipid rudderless performance.

  55. consolsbob says:

    Sack him now.

    Seriously, there is no point in carrying on with him.

    This could be us under Wenger in his dotage.

  56. Noon Gunner says:

    Imagine being Laca or Auba waiting up front as the clock ticks and our defenders are pissing around with the ball in our back third.

  57. Spike says:

    consolsbob,

    Agree, theres no evidence of any improvements anywhere.
    Add to that his refusal to drop consistent under performers and play others, like Torreira, Tierney, Holding.

    At least with Wenger, we had some great memories.

    Emery is a clueless prick.

  58. consolsbob says:

    Take Guendouzi out and where are we?

  59. andy1886 says:

    Poor but oh so predictable really. And the worst thing is that I don’t think that Emery can change the way he approaches games.

  60. andy1886 says:

    Well that was a pile of utter crap.

  61. Spike says:

    andy1886,

    No chance of that.

    He is clueless, stuck in his ways, but no one else actually has a clue what his ways are!!

  62. Paulie Walnuts says:

    Ghastly , hollow performance , totally devoid of inspiration.

    Talk about over playing…we spent the last 35 minutes fannying around with passing triangles in our own half.

    Good luck to Staff Utd though. A well drilled side who play for each other & maximise their ability to the full.

  63. Bill says:

    consolsbob:
    I have rarely seen so much talent and money deployed to such little effect.

    CBob

    I am not defending Emery and I agree with yogi that a 3rd year for him is not likely. However, I think you are heavily over estimating the level of attacking talent. Right now if Auba doesn’t score we are probably going to get shut out. Getting Lacazette back will help and hopefully Pepe will eventually come good. However, After Auba and Lacazette the cupboard is bare in terms of goal scoring ability and attacking talent. Ceballos might be good someday but our midfield brings nothing to our attack.

  64. Bufallo says:

    we will probably win three of the next seven games, that shouldn’t be good enough.

  65. Dalm says:

    JonJon called it – boat loads of possession and a 0-1 defeat.

    The passing out from the back gave away at least three throw ins by our area. So immediately under pressure.

    Too many players nit able to do what is required – only Leno and chambers at the back showed urgency – the other three were tripe.
    Ladle Xhaka in front of them and you have a slow slow team.

    So I feel sorry for whats in front of that shower.

  66. Bufallo says:

    i cant understand much of what he says but apparently we didn’t deserve to lose….a lot of possibility …we deserve more…
    emery has the demeanour of a manager who knows his job is on the line

  67. nicky says:

    consolsbob,

    I agree. Until we can confidently defend corners and open up massed defences, we cannot expect to prosper.
    There is something still missing at managerial level which must be put right………………….and quickly. There are enough chiefs but not the right sort.
    😎

  68. Keenan says:

    I am sad to say that we have a middling manager in charge of a team that has potential to be top 4. How do you lose to an average team after having so much time to prepare? Today’s performance shows the lack of an offensive game plan and no ability to change as the match progresses. And why did he not make defensive changes in the starting XI? They seem to be healthy now. And Ozil has to play for the team at some level whether it be in in England or in Europe. Emery is just being ridiculously stubborn now. We cannot have Emery back after this year.

  69. SV says:

    Their seamless switch from sitting back to pressing to staying at the back again was a lesson in organization.

    We missed pace and deliveries from the flanks.

    12 corners and they knew we would not score.

    The substitutions were too late.

    Emery has to swap the league team and the cup team if he wants to save his job.

  70. Bill says:

    Ozil is well past his prime and he brings no end product. Guendouzi is an energy player but he is a “tweener”. He is not an attacking mid or a defensive mid but somewhere in between. He is not really a great “box to box” player because he does not bring enough end product and never scores or creates assists. Willock and Torriera are also tweeners because neither are attacking mids and despite what we all want to believe there has been no evidence to suggest Torriera would be good as a defensive mid. Ceballos has potential as an attacking mid but I think he needs to mature and live up to that potential while at the same time adapt to playing in the PL and that’s too much to ask for a player with so little top level experience.

  71. Bill says:

    SV

    We have been through this many times before and the you can’t equate the cup teams performances against Europa league or league cup competition and suggest that they would do the same in the PL

  72. Bill says:

    PEA has 53% of our league goals and PEA + Laca have 83% of our league goals so far this season. Again it just points out how little talent there is outside of those 2 players.

  73. jonnygunner says:

    nicky:
    consolsbob,

    I agree. Until we can confidently defend corners and open upmassed defences, we cannot expect to prosper.
    There is something still missing at managerial level which must be put right………………….and quickly. There are enoughchiefs but not the right sort.

    You’ve changed your tune Nicky-it was ‘get behind the manager and his selections’ the week before last. You’re like the wind mate

  74. Ras says:

    Here is an interesting stat since taking charge d’affaires at Arsenal out of a possible 72 away points Arsenal have obtained 30.

    Not very good to say the least. It was reminiscent to watching a car wiper blade flop from right to left and vis a vis.

    Why stick to this regimented playing out from the back. Sheff Utd were safe in the knowledge they could push up high as there was little to no threat from a possible ball over the top to turn the defenders.

    Pepe should have scored. Ceballos Is pretty but is a luxury I’m not quite sure We need. He should have hit the target at least.

    Tierney,Bellerin and Holding must be due to a PL Match soon ?

    The quality of the final ball on both wings c soir was poor. Both Kierney and Bellerin are better attackers and defenders than Chambers and Sead.

    Midfield is the area and the inability to get it sorted is going to be the final count down and get Emery the sack eventually.

  75. Spike says:

    Ras,

    This season is over, already, unless the board act and sack very now.

    Theres no coming back from this, Emery has shown he is way out of his depth.

  76. Dukey says:

    Well that was painful viewing. The worst league display I’ve seen since 1995. Totally outplayed by a relegation threatened side, players looked like they didn’t know what the hell they were doing on a football pitch, all the good players dropped. Looks like Emery isn’t the man for us after all. Oh well.

  77. Ras says:

    Spike,

    Morning Spike. I think We are going to struggle this season to find, maintain a consistent way of playing.

    The job is to big for Emery. He’s already shown in his short tenure that picking and organisation a Team to play in a particular manner that exudes his philosophy is simply not happening.

  78. Spike says:

    Ras,

    Good morning mate

    Historically the Arsenal have stuck by managers (Bruce Rioch apart!) So I wonder if Emery will be given till the end of the season. On performances, tactics and team selections, I seriously hope not!

    Like his grasp of English, his grasp of league football is sadly wanting.

  79. Declan Byrne says:

    Morning all,
    What a truly insipid clueless display with no style or purpose to it. After a two week break was really looking forward to the game and against my better judgement was hopeful of a good performance. instead we get this crab sideways and backwards excuse for football. This manager is not up to it and the players are playing accordingly. Please, please Raul and Edu act now. Give Freddie a go until the end of the season Could it possibly be any worse?

  80. nicky says:

    Like Paul on the road to Damascus I’m beginning to see the light. Nothing to be ashamed of in that.
    jonnygunner,

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