Sheffield United will welcome West Ham to Bramall Lane on Sunday as the Premier League’s basement boys – but Chris Wilder’s men will be out for blood after a horrible run of fixtures to start their season.
West Ham might have had a tough start themselves but the Blades have already played Wolves, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City and only managed to pick up one point in their opening eight matches which came in a draw with Fulham.
The Yorkshire club will be looking at this match against the Hammers as one where they can bounce back and lift themselves off the bottom of the table so there’s no way that David Moyes and his players should approach this game with any kind of complacency despite what the Premier League table says.
Sheffield United have scored just four goals this season and stats by WhoScored show that half of them have come from the penalty spot and only one has come from open play.
The Blades have also seen less of the ball than any other team in the league this season by averaging just 39.7 per cent of possession in their opening eight matches.
Wilder’s side, however, ranks second in the Premier League for the number of aerial duels they win per match .
According to WyScout, Blades forward Oli McBurnie has averaged more aerial duels per 90 minutes than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues [17.93], so West Ham can expect to face an aerial bombardment this weekend.
Thankfully, the Irons are well-equipped to deal with such a threat.
McBurnie may lead the way in aerial duels but coming up in second in the Premier League is West Ham’s Tomas Soucek, who’s averaged 11.28 per 90 minutes.
And the stats also show that Soucek has been the most successful in winning those aerial duels out of him and McBurnie.
While West Brom’s Darnell Furlong leads the way with a 59.26 per cent success rate, Soucek is second in the Premier League and McBurnie is third.
It wouldn’t be a shock to see Soucek drop back and mark McBurnie a bit more closely due to Sheffield United’s ability to pick out the Scotland international in the air.
West Ham have quite a versatile squad of players with the likes of Jarrod Bowen and Pablo Fornals fans of playing the ball on the deck but they also have the likes of Michail Antonio, Declan Rice and Soucek who are masters of winning the ball in the air.
We don’t want to underestimate Sheffield United because it wasn’t too long ago they were impressing every week in the Premier League.
But McBurnie has been their most successful outlet this season and the Hammers seem as though they will be able to have a good handle on the ex-Swansea striker.
In other West Ham news, the Hammers have been offered ex-Leicester striker Ahmed Musa.