Sheffield United

Fleck artistry gets Sheffield United point at Arsenal

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John Fleck‘s perfectly lashed side volley gave Sheffield United a 1-1 draw at Arsenal on Saturday.

The Emirates Stadium saw a wasteful first hour from the Gunners give way to a resurgent Blades side and a share of the points.

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Gabriel Martinelli opened the scoring for the Gunners, who sit 10th with 29 points. The Blades move to 33 points and sit seventh.

The match was Mike Dean’s 500th Premier League match, and not without controversy. Dean neglected to award a penalty when Nicolas Pepe was chopped down in the box, but VAR stayed with him.


Three things we learned

1. Blades are for real: There’s a reason Chris Wilder is getting linked with plenty of jobs and got a new contract: Sheffield United’s men are bought into a system about as well as anyone not named Jurgen Klopp. Granted Arsenal let early United errors slide, but once the Blades took hold of momentum it rarely felt like the Gunners would score the game’s second goal

2. Aubameyang absence glaring: It’s no surprise that missing one of the world’s best scorers is a not good, but you’d peg Arsenal’s talented group of attackers to sort it out. Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette had their moments and Martinelli did get his goal, but there was an Auba-sized hole in both the aura and composure of the Gunners in the final third. That red card is stinging like a fresh cut.

3. Xhaka, Torreira steady: Mikel Arteta has found better play from Swiss hard man Granit Xhaka, while Lucas Torreira is working well with his center midfield mate. Their play allows Mesut Ozil to do whatever he wants, more or less. Throw in a fine day from Shkrodan Mustafi, and the Gunners were a Maitland-Niles 50-50 battle away from a clean sheet

Man of the Match: Give it to Fleck for the goal plus four tackles and another day of committed challenges.


Lacazette sent Nicolas Pepe down the right flank, and the Ivorian sent a terrific cross for Gabriel Martinelli. The youngster volleyed across goal and wide of the far post.

Lucas Torreira popped a dipping shot that Dean Henderson smothered in the 32nd minute.

Martinelli didn’t miss his second, punching home a 45th minute deflected cross from Bukayo Saka. The latter had a terrific first half for the Gunners.

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The Blades didn’t quit, and Arsenal was forced into a goal line clearance in the 56th.

Pepe could’ve won a penalty when he was chopped down on a dribble into the box, but VAR upheld Mike Dean’s initial judgment.

Sheffield United scored an equalizerr in brilliant fashion, Fleck slashing a bounding side volley past Leno in the 83rd minute.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles blocked a shot and Leno made a tremendous save in stoppage time to keep the hosts’ point.

Watch Live: Sheffield United v. West Ham United

Sheffield United West Ham live stream
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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The Premier League gets back in business on Friday at Bramall Lane when Sheffield United hosts West Ham United (Watch Live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Blades are two points off fifth and seven back of the Top Four, while West Ham is two points off the drop zone and a win off 11th.

It’s a crazy table this year. What else can we say?

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The sides met Oct. 26 in London, with Lys Mousset‘s goal leveling the line after Robert Snodgrass put West Ham up at home.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

West Ham cruised past Bournemouth in opening David Moyes‘ second tenure with the Irons, while the Blades are coming off back-to-back losses and are winless in three.


LINEUPS

Sheffield United

West Ham United

Premier League Preview: Sheffield United v. West Ham United

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The Premier League gets back in business on Friday at Bramall Lane when Sheffield United hosts West Ham United (Watch Live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Their table fortunes are indicative of the Premier League’s lack of clear tiers so far this season.

Blades are two points off fifth and seven back of the Top Four, while West Ham is two points off the drop zone and a win off 11th.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

West Ham cruised past Bournemouth in opening David Moyes‘ second tenure with the Irons, while the Blades are coming off back-to-back losses and are winless in three.

The sides met Oct. 26 in London, with Lys Mousset‘s goal leveling the line after Robert Snodgrass put West Ham up at home.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE


Injuries/suspensions

Sheffield United: OUT —  None. QUESTIONABLE — Michael Verrips, Simon Moore.

West Ham United: OUT — Michail Antonio, Andriy Yarmolenko, Ryan Fredericks, Mark Noble, Jack Wilshere. QUESTIONABLE — Aaron Cresswell, Mark Noble.


Probable lineups

Sheffield United: Henderson; Egan, Basham, O’Connell, Stevens, Norwood, Fleck, Besic, Baldock, Mousset, McGoldrick.

West Ham United: Fabianski, Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Fredericks, Rice, Noble, Fornals, Anderson, Snodgrass, Haller.


What they’re saying

Blades defender John Egan on rebounding from tough losses: “They were really tough trips to (Man) City and Liverpool. They’re probably the two best teams in the country, so going away to them was always going to be tough. The Man City game, we were quite unlucky not to get a result. … The Liverpool game was a bit of an eye-opener for us. We weren’t at our best, which we have to be to try and get a result. We came away from those two games, saw where we went wrong and we have to learn from it. All we can do is try and get better so next time we play these teams we have a better chance of getting a result.”

West Ham boss Moyes on transfer links: “I think West Ham have been linked with just about every player in the country and I’m here a week and a half, so it’s interesting, but I think that’s the norm for here. Quite often we are linked with a lot of players. We won’t be bringing in a bundle of players in, but obviously we’d like to add to the squad if we can. Gedson Fernandes is one name we’re talking about. He’s a young player with potential, probably more for the future. From that point of view, I’d like to bring young players in for the future, players we can look to build to get a strong, young team, but I also have to be wary that I need players who are ready for now and can feature in the first team as well.”


Prediction

The Blades are a handful, but West Ham’s new lease on life also feels pretty real. How about another split of the spoils and 1-1 at Bramall Lane?

Sheffield United sign free agent Rodwell

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Sheffield United have signed free agent Jack Rodwell on an initial six-month contract.

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Rodwell, 28, has been training with the Blades over the last few weeks after not having a club since leaving Blackburn Rovers at the end of last season. He was previously linked with a move to AS Roma in Serie A but that fell through and he has now ended up at Bramall Lane until the end of the 2019-20 season.

The former Everton, Man City and Sunderland midfielder has been plagued by injuries during his career and especially after he joined City in 2012. He was then painted as the villain in Sunderland’s Netflix documentary and his reputation took a big hit from that.

However, Blades boss Chris Wilder isn’t concerned about that and he’s had plenty of success in the past when talking players on trial or signing them up to short-term deals.

“There is a lot of nonsense that has been talked about Jack. Maybe the spotlight shouldn’t be shone on Jack, maybe it should be shone on a CEO (chief executive) at the time. I’m not a lover of fly-on-the wall documentaries, they’re always looking for a villain,” Wilder said. “From my point of view that’s history. All the boxes that I needed to tick, and Jack needed to tick, he has done. I’ve sat down with him for quite a long time and spoke about his career going forward, it aligns with the club’s goals. He plays a number of positions and hopefully we can get him going.”

Rodwell, who can play across midfield and defense, is delighted to have been given another chance in the Premier League.

“I am so thankful for the opportunity,” Rodwell said. “It is up to me now to do the business and hopefully we can get some good wins on the board. The whole process of the last few weeks was about me looking at Sheffield United, them looking at me and we go from there. I’m sure in a few weeks coming up the manager will be talking to me about different roles and other things. The team are doing brilliant now so it is up to me to force my way into the squad and the starting eleven.”

Picking up some extra cover on a free transfer is a smart move from Sheffield United and adding an extra bit of competition will help the Blades keep their performance levels high.

Wilder’s side have been a revelation in their first season back in the Premier League but the newly-promoted side now face a pivotal month or so as plenty of teams beneath them have picked up big wins over the festive period and the entire PL table has concertinaed.

Wilder: Liverpool dominates by perfectly executing the basics

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Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder said Liverpool’s domination of his team was all about the basics.

The Reds beat the Blades 2-0 on Thursday, which Wilder reckons would’ve been much worse were it not for his goalkeeper Dean Henderson.

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“I think the scoreline flattered us.”

What impressed Wilder, however, was how Liverpool was committed to winning both the first and second balls, and a commitment to the little things.

From The Yorkshire Post:

“You could see why they are world and European champions and they look like they are going to be Premier League winners as well. People talk to me about academies and technical stuff and rotation, but the basic stuff they had to tonight – win headers, races and drop on second balls and run and play forward and back and defend as a team – they did it miles better than us.”

Sheffield United remains eighth in the Premier League with 29 points, seven back of fourth and nine clear of the Bottom Three.

He said similar things after the game.