Peter Crouch thinks that Sheffield United are at an unfair disadvantage this season because of empty stadiums.
The scheduled return of fans at the beginning of October has been postponed by the government. They are now warning supporters may not be back in grounds for another six months.
It means the Blades could play almost the entire campaign behind closed doors. And according to Crouch, that hinders them more than other top flight clubs.
“I don’t think you can underestimate how much of an impact this will have,” the former striker wrote in The Daily Mail. “There are some places that are absolutely horrible to go to as an away player – Sheffield United, Leeds, Wolves, Everton – where you know the fans are going to be at you from the first minute.
“Hostile atmospheres can make some teams shrink. I know how Stoke used to benefit from a rocking stadium. But if you put Liverpool and Manchester City into environments that are like training exercises, they are going to have no issue keeping the ball.
“I look at Sheffield United already, with two defeats at Bramall Lane, and see how much they are missing being backed.”
Does Peter Crouch have a point?
United have certainly been in poor form so far in 2020/21. They have lost all three of their Premier League games without scoring a goal.
This is in stark contrast to last term, when they finished ninth in their first top flight campaign in 12 years.
That could perhaps have been even better, as well, had their results not also dipped post-lockdown. With fans in the stadiums in 2019/20, they lost seven of their 28 league games – one in four.
When football returned behind closed doors, that became one in two as they lost five of their final 10 matches last season. Pre-lockdown they were getting 1.5 points a game on average. Post-lockdown that dropped to 1.1.
Whether there is a specific correlation with home fixtures is less clear. They have lost twice at Bramall Lane this campaign, but in the final 10 matches of 2019/20 there was only one defeat – and three wins.
In contrast, they lost five home games prior to football’s suspension.
Overall, empty grounds seem to be hindering the Blades. But their home form specifically doesn’t seem to have been unduly affected. Just yet, anyway.