Quite conversely to fellow promotees Norwich City, Sheffield United have a brand of football built on stubborn defensive resilience. The Blades conceded just 41 goals in 46 games last season: the joint lowest. Can they carry that form into the Premier League? We delve into the intricacies of their side in this Sheffield United team guide for FPL 2019/20.
What style of football do Sheffield United play?
The Blades have had an amazing rise in the last 3 seasons. Firstly with promotion to the Championship after years of lingering in League 1, quickly followed by a surprising – even to themselves, perhaps – promotion to the Premier League.
A team built around British and Irish talent and chemistry, former Sheffield United player and boyhood fan Chris Wilder employs a 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2 system. Admirably, he’s not afraid to use players who were part of the journey in League 1 either.
A big part of his game model are his centrebacks, tasked with carrying the ball and bringing play from defence to midfield. With the wingbacks tasked with advancing forward also, the end goal of the team is always to feed the striking duo of Billy Sharp or David McGoldrick inside the box.
Like Norwich in their promotion, The Blades were able to make smart deals with more limited funds. One of them was young shot-stopper Dean Henderson on loan from Manchester United, who shined between the sticks last season. Northern Irishman Oliver Norwood was another standout signing from Wilder last season, proving himself to be one of the best midfielders in the Championship with his long passing and playmaking ability.
Wilder knows he comes into the Premier League with a squad that lacks much Premier League experience. Despite this, his recruitment appears to favour players with proven Championship experience that fit his style of play and match the same ethos as his current players.
The hidden benefit of this is that, should relegation back to the Championship occur, the squad will probably not suffer the same fate Fulham’s has.
Notably, Oliver McBurnie comes in as Sheffield’s record signing, scoring 22 goals last season for Swansea City. Former academy product and England international Phil Jagielka also comes in to add some much needed Premier League experience into the back line from his 12-year Everton stint.
Last season’s key statistics
Compared to Aston Villa and Norwich, who conceded 36 and 34 respectively at home last season, Sheffield conceded just 17. They kicked off 2019 with eight consecutive clean sheets to solidify their promotion credentials and overall secured 17 clean sheets last season.
Unsupported, but often widely believed is that Sheffield United are just a defensively sound team, who struggle offensively. This is not the case. Chris Wilder is tactically astute in attack also, and even received praise from Bielsa: “Teams say a lot about the head coach they have, It’s the team (Sheffield United) from which I’ve learned the most this season.”
FPL fixture difficulty
The table above shows the fixture difficulty of Sheffield United’s opening six matches, as determined by our clean sheet tracker and attacking tracker. These difficulty trackers are based on last seasons home/away specific performance statistics. Newly promoted sides statistics have been weighted according to their transitional value.
Who takes penalties for Sheffield United?
Accordingly to our data, David McGoldrick is designated penalty taker for Sheffield United. Billy Sharp is the second choice.
It’s also worth keeping a very close eye on Oliver McBurnie. The striker took 5 penalties in the Championship last season for Swansea, scoring 3 and missing 2.
Which Sheffield United players to pick on FPL?
A look at Sheffield United’s ownership percentages reads a bit like the scores I’d get if I ever tried gymnastics. There are plenty of 1’s and 0.somethings. The majority of investment has been put into their defence, probably for the reasons we’ve already covered.
It’s their £4.0m defenders that claim the most accolades. Lundstram and Stearman have a combined 9% ownership at the time of writing; more than the rest of their teammates combined. Dean Henderson (£4.5m), at 1.5% owned, is the highest owned Sheffield United player who might actually play, followed closely by forward Billy Sharp (£6.0m) who sits at 1.2%.
The real value might be hiding in midfield. New signing Callum Robinson (£5.5m) scored 29 goals in 88 league appearances for Preston, his previous club.
Another £5.0m midfielder of theirs actually has a few FPL points to their name from previous seasons. Ravel Morrison managed 52 points in the 2013/14 season, scoring 3 goals and providing 2 assists in the process.
But though there’s obvious value in this side if they can handle the Premier League, there’s little to suggest they’re going to find it easy in the top flight. Save points from the impressive Henderson may be their most consistent source of returns for the time being.