Sheffield United-West Ham United Preview
Sheffield United look to be on course to avoid being a one-season wonder in the top flight, and the promoted Blades look to retain their top-half status Saturday when they face West Ham United at London Stadium.
The Blades (3-3-3) are relying on industry and defence to survive this term since goals have yet to flow. Sheffield United have just eight goals - joint-lowest with Crystal Palace for any team in the top half of the table - but their seven conceded match Liverpool for stingiest in the Premier League.
Perhaps most impressive about Chris Wilder's side as they enter Match Day 10 has been their resiliency outside Bramall Lane. Sheffield United have yet to lose a road contest in league play, claiming six points in four matches with a win and three draws while registering five goals.
Sheffield United came out of the international break the way they went into it - recording a clean sheet. This shutout, however, provided three enormous points in their bid to stay up with a 1-0 triumph over Arsenal on Monday. Lys Mousset's goal on the half-hour proved decisive, as did the Blades commitment to defence as the Gunners finished with only three shots on target.
"We've grown into games as the season has gone on and the lads are growing in confidence, believing we're Premier League players," Chris Basham told The Star. "We're putting in big performances week in, week out now and we hope to maintain that from now on, and maintain our standards.
"The gaffer won't let us get overconfident and will keep us down to earth. We've been unlucky in a few games not to pick up points, and hopefully they'll come in next batch of games."
If anything, Monday's result validated Wilder's belief in his squad, whom he refused to give platitudes after pushing table-toppers Liverpool to the brink in a 1-0 defeat last month. The Blades boss is also contemplating changes to his first XI despite the victory, with Billy Sharp a possible return after coming off the bench in his first match back from suspension.
"The hardest thing is to change a winning side but sometimes it's the right thing to do. We've got to look at the players," Wilder said at his Thursday presser. "They'll look for continuity but it isn't always the right thing to do. We have to pick the right side for each game and if we have to change it, we have a chance to do so."
West Ham United (3-3-3) also are on 12 points, with Bournemouth between them and the Blades based on goal difference. The Irons are looking to avoid a third defeat on the bounce, shipping two goals in a third consecutive contest last Saturday in a 2-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park.
The poor run defensively comes after Manuel Pellegrini's side recorded three consecutive shutouts as part of a five-match unbeaten streak in which they collected 11 points. West Ham are winless in three (0-1-2), and Pellegrini is stressing focus for the full 90 minutes against a Blades side he labeled as "total English football."
"I think that Sheffield United have a clear style of play," he noted to West Ham's official website. "It's not just a lucky moment for them, they're a consistent team that plays always in the same way. The four games that they've played away, they've lost not one of them; they're a very difficult team to play against and we need to play well."
Pellegrini will likely restore Aaron Cresswell at left back after he missed the Everton match through injury. Cresswell, who also has a pair of goals, offers Pellegrini a better option defensively than Arthur Masuaku and is one of the team's best dead-ball specialists.
West Ham have totaled just 11 goals this term, with newcomer Sebastian Haller and Andriy Yarmolenko accounting for seven between them. The Irons, though, rank fifth in the top flight with 45 shots on target.
The sides have not met since Sheffield United topped the Irons on penalty kicks in the second round of the 2014 League Cup at Upton Park. This will be their first top-flight match since the 2006-07 season, when the clubs split their two contests.
West Ham have held Sheffield United off the scoresheet in their two home Premier League matches, claiming a win and a draw.
Updated October 24, 2019