Sheffield United are currently sitting 6th in the Premier League table, just one point behind giants Arsenal. To many (perhaps all) people’s surprise, Sheffield United are proving tough to beat, with a formidable defence, and finding their feet going forward.
The foundation of Sheffield United’s success has been their defence – which is also reflected in FPL. Sheffield Utd defenders currently occupy 5 of the top 15 spots, so we need to be looking further afield than Lundstram!
Overall, this is more of a football post than an FPL post, looking at heatmaps and charts to see how Sheffield Utd are setting up for success.
How Sheffield Line Up
Forgive the crude sketching… this is how United line up in most of their games. What is interesting is how the trio of O’connell, Stevens and Fleck dominate the left wing, and how the right wing is commandeered by Basham, Lundstram and Baldock.
In the modern Premier League era, with full backs acting as playmakers and wide attackers, Sheffield United have deployed a lot of resource to winning these areas.
Teams of note who make heavy use of the wings are Liverpool, Arsenal, Bournemouth, Everton, Watford, West Ham, Man City, Crystal Palace, Wolves, Burnley and Brighton. So most of the league then…
Doubling up on the wings
With their unorthodox formation, Sheffield Utd have opted to commit 2 or 3 players to each wing at any point in time, using constant lateral movement to cover the centre of the park.
Looking at their October games, where Sheffield Utd did not lose a game and only conceded 1 goal in 4 games, we can see the tackles are made either in attack or defence. Sheffield United try to ley play happen in the middle of the park and then engage the opposition when the ball is moved out wide.
What is interesting is that at home, United tend to sit back, and make most of their tackles in their own third. Away from home Sheffield are happier to press the opposition and win the ball more aggressively, higher up the pitch.
As good as Sheffield’s defence has been, I would be weary of selecting their players when they are playing teams with midfield maestro’s – like Chelsea and Leiecester who are creating a lot of chances from the middle of the park, and are confident playing in small places in the centre channel.
When Leicester are playing away from home, I would be mindful of selecting their defenders against teams who transition the ball quickly and effectively from defence > midfield > attack, such as Liverpool. However I would favour pick their attacking players against teams who like to work the ball out meticulously from the back.
With the exception of playing at home to Arsenal, where Sheffield United soaked up pressure and confidently cut out passes outside their own box – there is a clear proactiveness one one side of the pitch to win the ball as a turnover.
vs Watford – Left (against Cleverley and Janmaat, the weaker side)
vs Burnley – Right (against mcNeil and Pieters, the more attacking side)
vs West Ham – Heavily Right (against Felpie Anderson and Cresswell, the more attacking side)
Sheffield United clearly plan well, so I would recommend looking at the effectiveness and form of their opponents more attacking side of the pitch when deciding on whether to include Sheffield United assets in your team.
The story of touches on the ball with Sheffield United players is consistent with tackles and interceptions. I have removed the forward pair from this analysis to highlight exactly how their build up play works.
With a lot of Premier League teams often playing with two defensive midfielders, SHU have decided to bypass this by going around, shown by plenty of touches in the opposition area, and in the wide attacking third.
The missing part of the story are the two strikers often tracking back to the centre circle to start attacks by pushing the ball out wide.
To be very clear, Lundstram is not being played as a Defender. He has a huge ownership amongst FPL players but is often benched… then bagging another double digit haul.
It is reasonable for FPL managers to bench Lundstram, as he often doesn’t pass the eye test. The reason being is that he does not spend time on the ball at all, and is seldom involved in midfield play- but seems to just be in the right place at the right time to finish off attacking moves.
According to Who Scored, Lundstram has dribbled with the ball 5 times in the last 4 games, and barely makes the top 5 passmakers in the Sheffield United Squad.
These touch maps clearly show the attacking instruction that has been given to Lundstram. If you compare the amount of the ball hey enjoys in relation to the players around him (the numbers on next to each players name) you can see that he isn’t central to the build up – however is key to moving the ball forward and enjoys entering the opposition area for a shot.
If you compare his touch map to Baldock (it’s taking me ages to screengrab all of these maps, so just trust me on this one), you will notice that Lundstram players a bit narrower, but more advanced than Baldock, the wing back.
Lundstram plays in a unique position, not really replicated by other players in the league which might be the reason behind his success. Considering he is a Defender in the FPL game and his low price point, he is a must-have, and must stat in your team in every game – perhaps with the exception of playing at home to Man City and Liverpool.
With regard to the other Sheffield United players, I would look at the teams they are playing, and whether they are playing at home or away. They enjoy a battle on the wings and are aggressive away from home, so I would considera Sheffield United FWD away at Bouremouth for example.
Sheffield Unied play Spurs and Man UTD in their next two games. Both opponesnts are in a poor run of form, however like to play with the ball in the middle of the park and are quick to get the ball to their front men – so I do think Sheffield United will concede goals in their next two games.
All images and stats have been provided by whoscored.com