Sheff Utd v West Ham
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
Blunt Blades rock bottom
Alexa, explain second-season syndrome.
It’s likely the virtual assistant AI technology would then throw up the name Sheffield United.
The Blades were the surprise packages of the 2019/20 season, flirting with the top six and even better before finishing ninth. They’re the surprise packages of this season too, although not in the way they would have intended.
Chris Wilder’s men resume after the latest international break with just one point from their opening eight games. Fairly predictably, it puts them rock bottom.
This time last season they had… nine points. Okay, hands up if you thought I was going to say more than that.
Yes, to some extent, they started a little slowly last time. But game nine produced a 1-0 win over Arsenal and from there they won five and drew five of their next 11 top-flight matches.
Wilder must hope they lift off at the same stage this time.
Hammers have dug in
There doesn’t seem anything too remarkable about West Ham being in 12th place after eight games.
But it’s a packed Premier League and they’re just seven points off leaders Leicester.
And very recent form shines an even more positive light. The Hammers have played five of last season’s top seven in their last six Premier League outings and performed admirably: they’ve racked up three wins, two draws and just a single defeat.
The loss was away to champions Liverpool and they ruffled feathers in that one too, taking an early lead and only missing out on a point after Diogo Jota netted five minutes from time.
There are certainly grounds for optimism as they travel north.
Current form dictates the market and Sheffield United are 3.211/5 underdogs to finally get a win. West Ham are 2.526/4 to take victory while The Draw is 3.412/5.
It’s not hard to make a case for the visitors but I’m going to build one for the Blades instead.
Let’s start with some history. Sheffield United have won all three of their home Premier League games against West Ham, their best such 100% record in the competition. In fact, the Hammers last won a top-flight match at Bramall Lane in 1968.
Sheffield grit seems to kick in any time southern rivals arrive in town. That’s shown by the hosts winning 10 of their last 11 Premier League home games against London sides.
Dragging the argument to the here and now, I also think Wilder’s men are far better than their points tally suggests. Sometimes teams start horribly and you know their fate almost immediately.
However, two of the last four Premier League sides to register just one point after eight games (Southampton in 1998-99 and Sunderland in 2013-14) went on to survive. The Blades seem more of that ilk.
I can also see West Ham making a mess of this. So many teams can overperform against the big teams and then get found out when they inevitably take their foot off the gas in what looks a far easier task.
West Ham almost did that at home to Fulham last time. Against a pumped up Wilder side, they may not get away with it again.
Lack of goals has been a problem for the hosts.
But scratch beneath the surface and you find this: Sheffield United have the biggest negative difference between expected goals (7.7) and goals scored (4) in the Premier League this season.
That said, even if they were playing to par of around eight, that’s not many and, in terms of the goal markets, it’s easy to see why Under 2.5 Goals is the favourite at 1.855/6.
That said, all four of West Ham’s away games have featured three or more goals so there’s some sort of an argument to be made for Over 2.5 at 2.0621/20.
It’s tricky to combine a home scorer with Sheffield United in the Same Game Multi Market as they haven’t got an obvious goalgetter right now.
However, we can use it in another way by cashing in on a fast start.
Sheffield United to win and to be leading at half-time is 5.03. That pays more than the traditionsl HT/FT double result (7/2).
Sheffield United have become just the fifth team in Premier League history to pick up just one point in their first eight games of a season, though two of the previous four have survived the drop (Southampton in 1998-99 and Sunderland in 2013-14). Only in 1990-91 have the Blades ever failed to win any of their first nine games in a league season.