Sheffield United vs Everton | Saturday 26th December 2020, 20:00 | BT Sport
Bramall Lane is the venue as Sheffield United play host to Everton. The natives are sceptical but a Christmas miracle could be in the ascendency; a Sheffield United win…
Maybe it was wishful to think that Chris Wilder would revert back to the double pivot that served him so well in the football league. However, after 30 minutes on the South Coast he pulled John Fleck for Oli Burke, dropped David McGoldrick into CAM and did precisely that!
In the limited time the Blades have played with a 5-2-1-2, they have looked a far better proposition. With Sander Berge limping off in their last game, John Lundstrum suspended following his straight red and Fleck prematurely pulled for a sub par performance, Wilder's hand may finally be forced into implementing the double pivot that S6 yearns for!
This would likely see David McGoldrick play in-behind a strike partnership of Oli Burke and Oli McBurnie (if he is fit) and dare I set it could be the formulae for the Blades first win of the campaign come Boxing Day.
Carlo Anelotti has also tinkered with his sides tactics in recent weeks. Due to a bit of an injury crisis in the full-back department, Everton's supremo went with a flat back four of four centre backs (Holgate, Mina, Keane and Godfrey) vs Chelsea.
Since that victory on the 12th December, Everton have stuck with this system and won two tricky games – vs Leicester and Arsenal – making it three on the spin Their new philosophy is simple; defenders defend and it has been working.
In this set-up, out of possession, Everton have switched from a counter press to a low block which has seen a drastic increase in PPDA (passes per defensive action), the biggest in the league in-fact. In their last game, Everton had a PPDA of 24.07, to put that in perspective Newcastle (1st for PPDA) seasonal average is 18.43! Prior to the tactical switch, Everton averaged 11.68 for the season.
In terms of betting, these means two things for me; I fancy Sheff Utd's back three to rack up the passes and I do not expect an exiting game.
If Everton start with the back four that has severed them so will in the EPL recently, SUFC's LCB Jack Robinson's price of 21/20 to attempt 40 passes with Poker Stars takes appeal. He was outstanding in SUFC's last fixture, which stands him in good stead to keep his spot on Boxing Day.
This season, he has averaged a pass every two and a half minutes (34.43 passes pG) and hit this line in half of his appearances. He failed to hit the line vs Leeds, his substitute appearances vs West Ham (only played 28 minutes) and vs Brighton (where the Blades had ten men for majority and went 1-0 up.)
Despite hitting the line more often than not when the circumstances suit, it is Robinon's oppositions tactics that enhance this fancy. Since switching to the flat back four, Everton have played three games during which six out of the seven of their oppositions CB's hit this line, only Tierney failed to do so and he fell just one short (39!)
In fact, those CB's averaged 83.4 passes per game which is a 30.86% increase on their league averages for the season!
I do not expect goals in this game either. Prior to Everton's switch, they had an xG pG of 1.74 and an xGA of 1.47 and since the switch their xG has fell to 0.91 and xGA has fell to 1.03. In short the Toffee's are defending better and scoring less. They have found the net five times in those three games and conceded just one. Of their last five EPL games, only their most recent vs Arsenal saw over 2.5 goals.
Eight of Sheffield United's 14 league games have seen fewer then three goals this season. The same amount of those games has seen them drawing at HT. I think the data outlined above points to a few potential angles; Under 2.5 Goals and half-time result draw. Under Bet365's ‘Bet Builder' you can combine those at odds of 12/5.