Liverpool haven’t played Sheffield United in a competitive match in twelve years. While manager Jurgen Klopp would have sent scouts to watch them, and looked over numerous videos, this is the first time that this group of players would have faced Chris Wilders’s team.
The Blades play an unconventional system, using the 3-5-2 but with overlapping centre-backs to create overloads on both flanks. It hasn’t always been evident this season with Wilder using a more conservative approach in matches in the Premier League but with Bramall Lane likely to be bouncing tomorrow, you can bet that home side will come at the Reds with everything they have got. Let’s look at a few strengths and weaknesses that Klopp and his staff may have noticed.
1) They rarely give shots away
So far this campaign, Sheffield United have allowed only 67 shots at their goal. This is the eighth-lowest number in the Premier League. It demonstrates that the Blades are pretty tight at the back and won’t allow many clear cut chances.
2) They love a battle
United have the fifth-highest success percentage (61.3%) for defensive duels. This means they are willing to put a shift in and will come out with the ball when up against an opponent in a one-on-one situation. This typifies Chris Wilder’s management style which demands effort and hard work
3) Regular crosses into the box
Although Liverpool are top of the table for the most crosses per match, the Blades are not far behind. In their first six Premier League games, they have averaged 16.48 crosses per 90 minutes, which is the sixth-highest in the league.
1) Pressing is not a priority
Keeping a solid defensive line is important so pressing high up is not common from Sheffield United. Their PPDA (passes per defensive action) is currently 13.35. Only Arsenal, Norwich, Wolves and Newcastle have a higher number.
2) They won’t pass through you often
In terms of through balls, the Blades have been one of the least successful in the opening six matches of the league season. They average only 3.89 through passes per 90 minutes, which is the second-lowest of the 20 Premier League teams.
3) United don’t have many direct runners on the ball
Wilders’s side average 7.62 progressive runs per 90 minutes. Only Bournemouth and Burnley are worse at progressing the ball ten yards or more with their runs.
All in all, it is an interesting match up, and Liverpool will have to be on their game to get the three points.