Sheffield United equaled 2012-13 QPR’s record for the longest winless streak to start a Premier League season when it fell 1-0 to Burnley at Turf Moor on Tuesday.
The answers are difficult to find and will get even more challenging after the club announced a spate of positive COVID-19 tests at Bramall Lane.
It’s a challenging time at Bramall Lane, as Blades have not been a terribly different team than the one that took the league by surprise in its promotion campaign last season.
Eleven of Blades’ 14 losses have come by one goal, and they had better performances than their opponents in terms of expected goals in losses to Everton, West Brom, Leeds, and Aston Villa.
United had 64 percent of the ball on Tuesday, out-attempted Burnley 7-5, and completed 233 more passes than the Clarets.
“We had a lot of the ball,” said an exasperated George Baldock (video at bottom). “I feel like we created good kind of half-openings and didn’t make the most of it. We gave ourselves an uphill battle, conceding such a sloppy goal.”
Blades scored barely more than a goal-per-game in their run to ninth place, scoring and conceding 39 goals in 38 matches. No player scored more than six goals, but four had at least five.
Those paces are a thing of the past, as United has scored just eight times while conceding 27 in 16 matches. In an ironic turn, David McGoldrick has four of those goals on an xG of 2.7 after scoring just twice on an xG of 8.72 last season. Shoulder shrug emoji.
But here’s where the xG numbers come back into play. Blades conceded 13 less goals than expected last season (they scored almost seven fewer than expected, too).
This season they are still finishing less than expected, to the tune of 8.55 fewer goals than xG, but their 26.81 xGA is nearly spot-on.
Manager Chris Wilder couldn’t help but get big picture when asked what went wrong.
“Like I’ve said to everyone who wants to listen, we had a perfect storm last year. It’s the complete opposite this year, with everything. With confidence, with belief, with big moments, with injuries. It’s always been an incredible fight right the way through. It was a fight in the Championship. We placed a club in the Premier League off back of not one of the favorites, possibly a mid-table Championship side. The year that we had last year was a perfect storm. We took big moments. We found that little bit of quality… Maybe if we got our noses in front maybe it would come back. At the moment it’s a big arm wrestle.”
Will changes come in January? Wilder was short and sweet with his words.
“I’ve put my recommendations to the board and left it with them.”
"Since I've come to this football club it's been a winning football club. It hurts us, it really does."
George Baldock's reaction. 👇 pic.twitter.com/wwOtz6dv21
— Sheffield United (@SheffieldUnited) December 29, 2020