Like most Sheffield United fans, I approached yesterday’s game very much with the attitude of anything is a bonus here, in terms of points.
The Blades were playing Spurs. A team flying high, with the world’s best striker leading the line and one of the all-time great managers in the dugout. Yes, we beat them in the summer, but this Spurs team is a different animal.
But like a lot of Blades fans, I soon descended into frustration watching the game, as is so easily done. Sloppy errors, poor marking, and a lack of confidence which was surprising given the win over Newcastle, adding to my annoyance as the opening 45 played out.
United gifted Tottenham three goals. We all know it, Wilder knows it, and most Spurs fans probably couldn’t believe how easy it was at times in the final third due to United’s own undoings.
The end of the game was 3-1. A score which was more than fair given the balance of the game. However, despite the initial frustration at yet another Premier League loss and seeing both West Brom and Brighton win this weekend, were the Blades really THAT bad?
On reflection, the answer to that is a resounding no.
Competing but self-destructing
Watching most of the game back and delving into some of the more basic stats around, it’s clear that the Blades were well in this game.
Jayden Bogle lost his man for the goal as we all know, while Ollie Norwood had two moments to forget to gift Harry Kane and then Tanguy Ndombele the chances to score.
But overall, United were right there. The goals came at bad times. One at the start, one just before half-time, and one to kill the game merely four minutes after David McGoldrick had got us back into the mix.
Per Whoscored, United had 42% possession, not the end of the world against a top four side. Interestingly, we also had more shots, 15 to Tottenham’s 14, while we also won more aerial duels – 26 to 17 – and put more tackles in, 19 to 17.
On a plate
The crucial stat among those provided by Whoscored is the dispossessed one. United lost the ball 12 times to Spurs’ 8. Yes, that is only 4 more times but 2 of those led directly to goals and those are the fine margins which decide points at this level.
United limited Spurs’ players, barring Harry Kane, to minimal efforts on goal. Kane had 6 of the 14 attempts by Mourinho’s men. Their next best was Tanguy Ndombele on 2 shots. The Blades, meanwhile, had McGoldrick with 4 and Burke and Bogle with 3 and 2 respectively.
So, this wasn’t the doom and gloom performance I initially thought it was.
It was marked improvement on some displays earlier this season and on another day, Ndombele doesn’t produce a moment of magic and we might just sneak back into the game.
If United keep playing this way, they’ll win more than enough games to at least get past that magic 11 point mark set by Derby County. At least, that’s the hope for us all…