Sheffield United vs Tottenham Hotspur – 17.1.2021

Some quick thoughts on Sheffield United vs Tottenham

  • Tottenham
    • Rodon looked allergic to passing forward. This will be compounded by Aurier’s inconsistency and Mourinho’s obviously distaste for using him in build up. I also wonder about the impact of Bergwijn in this. Coming from Swansea and having played under Graham Potter and Steve Cooper I would have expected a bit more from Rodon. Did will defensively though.
    • Interesting to see Ndombele as part of the double pivot in contrast to his earlier involvements under the striker. He likes to invite pressure so you can see why Mourinho was reluctant to trust him in possession near Tottenham’s back four, but he was given responsibility today in a deeper role and had a good game capped off by a fantastic goal.
    • I missed the first 15 or so, but while Tottenham looked dangerous in transition they did not create much from sustained attacks. Sheffield United are clearly not in a great place, but they generally did enough defensively to keep Tottenham at bay.
  • Sheffield United
    • Is Henderson to Ramsdale the worst positional downgrade in the league?
      • This is a thought I have had for some time and I am mostly interested in seeing what other takes there are. I am not a goalkeeper guy but I can’t help but look at a lot of the goals Sheffield United concede and feel he consistently could have done different or better. I would expect that to be the case for goalkeepers with most goals scored everywhere, but I think he consistently bears a larger portion of the blame than a good keeper should.
        • I think this is potentially compounded by the habits formed playing for a side like Bournemouth versus the habits required to play for a team like Sheffield United.
      • Today Ramsale begins to come for Aurier’s goal before retreating, whereas had he chosen to stay his positioning and balance would have been better prepared for the shot. He is also at the six for Kane’s goal whereas had he been on the line/two yards out I think he makes or should make this save. He is recovering after playing short and trusting his team so you can see why he was where he was, but on the balance of trust in teammates versus considering “what if they mess up?” he needs to err on the side that consistently reduces the team’s goals against. Given the jumbled mess in front of him that means more wisely worried and less trust, regardless of how egregious Norwood’s mistake is. 
      • I also wondered about his percentage of balls played long vs Henderson but looking at the data there does not seem to be too much difference (T-tests might say otherwise but my curiosity is sated). The numbers for PSxG/SoT suggest Sheffield United are not worse defensively than last year at 0.30 holding fast (other metrics are worse but this is consistent), but the difference in goalkeeper performance for PSxG +/- is quite large and likely to get worse if Ramsdale continues to perform at his current level.
    • Sheffield’s attacking limitations in wide areas
      • There was a piece in the Athletic a little while ago about the importance of left-footed center backs. I cannot be bothered to pay for it but it’s here if you care to or are already subscribed. Beyond pass trajectories and whatever else that article delves into, the ability to use the outside foot is important because it allows a player to protect the ball and play forward into wide areas where there are generally less opponents and losses of possession are more forgiving (further distance to goal, more players between point of concession and goal. Many center backs will pass their troubles onto their fullbacks rather than attempting to play forward themselves, but this issue is magnified when a player is on the “wrong” side. This further reinforces what a loss Jack O’Connell is for this team. He is a capable defender, left-footed, contributes to the attack in wide areas and was their primary set piece target when fit. All of this preamble is to say that Ethan Ampadu’s relative discomfort/limitations affected Sheffield United’s ability to play down the left-hand side, especially given the outside center back’s initial responsibility as the base of their flank play. On the other side, I have not seen much of Jayden Bogle before today, but he made a lot of interior runs and seems more focused on offering a presence centrally rather than in wide areas, which meant that both of Sheffield United’s flanks were limited going forward by the tendencies or the qualities of the players within them. While Fleck delivered a great cross for McGoldrick’s goal, neither Lundstrom or Basham contributed significantly down the right.
    • Norwood’s nightmare
      • Last season Norwood often filled the role of the floater who linked Sheffield’s left and right flanks. He often receives the ball with little support but lots of space and is responsible for choosing whether to continue to probe the current side or switch the point of attack. He was caught out multiple times today due to lack of awareness and lack of quality and was a consistent source of Tottenham transition opportunities. It was hardly surprising Ampadu was pushed forward into this role as it theoretically solved two problems for Sheffield United (Ampadu’s suitability as the base of left-sided attacks, Norwood’s struggles).
    • Fluidity as a double-edged sword
      • Attacking fluidity is great in theory because you should get into better positions as no time is lost trying to get the right people in the right areas. You can get people into dangerous areas from multiple adjacent areas and use this movement to pull teams apart and create space. In practice, at least for Sheffield United today, you wind up with players in areas of the pitch who do not have attacking identities or qualities tied to those areas.
      • If the result of this fluidity is that McGoldrick is wide left, Enda Stevens is in the half-space and Fleck is attacking the box, that arrangement is suboptimal given the different qualities of these players. What you are hoping for is that the increased space afford to the players from the fluidity makes up for the difference in technical/tactical quality, which generally has not been and was not the case for Sheffield United today.
      • Contrast this with the goal, where Enda Stevens is attacking the flank, Fleck is supporting him and facing the block and both forwards are in the box.

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