Feature

#SHUARS: Five Things To Look Out For

With the international break now over, Premier League football returns. 

We travel to Bramall Lane in search for three points in what will be our first match there in 12 years.  

Ahead of the match on Monday night, we've picked out five things to watch out for-scroll down to see what they are.   

AUBA'S MILESTONE

If our top scorer nets again this Monday, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will become the 51st player in the club's history to reach a half century of goals.

Last season's Golden Boot winner has already scored eight so far this term – to add to his 31 last season, and the 10 he scored in his debut campaign. He has made 75 appearances for us in all competitions, he will be the sixth fastest player to the milestone for the club if he nets in this game.

Twenty of his 49 goals have come in away games, and he's found the net in six of our last seven matches on the road.

His tally includes 10 braces, one hat-trick and five penalties, 40 were scored with his right foot and nine with his left.

His first goal came on his debut at home to Everton in February 2018 and he's scored in every month he's played in since then (bar August 2018) and won his second Premier League Player of the Month award in September.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang


A PREMIER LEAGUE DEBUT?

"He's ready to play. Now we have two options in that left-back role with Sead Kolasinac and him." That was Unai Emery's response in the press conference when he was asked whether Kieran Tierney would feature on Monday.

Our summer signing from Celtic has impressed during his two outings so far – one in the Carabao Cup and one in the Europa League – but he has had to bide his time for his Premier League debut. He has been inching ever closer, and was named on the bench for the win over Bournemouth two weeks ago. He stayed at London Colney during the international break to further work on his fitness and could now be ready for his English league bow. He was just 17 when he made his Scottish Premiership debut in 2015. Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin are also chomping at the bit for their first Premier League action since and December and January respectively, and both featured in a behind-closed-doors friendly at the training ground last week, as did Tierney.

Alexandre Lacazette is another who could make his return from injury on Monday. He didn't play in the aforementioned friendly with Reading, but did re-join full training prior to the weekend. "It depends how he feels in the next days training with us," was Emery's assessment on Thursday. "Whether his ankle is not giving him any more problems. I don't know whether he's ready for 90 minutes or on the bench. We'll decide that over the next days."


RETURN TO BRAMALL LANE

This is our first trip to Bramall Lane in the Premier League since a 1-0 defeat there in December 2006, though we did secure a 3-0 win in the League Cup away to the Blades in October 2007.

We have yet to win away to United during the Premier League era though, our last win there came back in April 1991, shortly before we clinched the league title. Kevin Campbell and Alan Smith scored the goals that day - we have drawn three and lost the other of four league games there since. In fact we have played more Premier League games at Bramall Lane without victory than at any other ground in the competition (three).

The good news is though that United have not been particularly strong at home this season, having lost their last three Premier League games there, scoring just once in the process. They last lost four league games in a row at home way back in 1965.


A NOVEL TACTICAL APPROACH

A major talking point of Sheffield United's approach in recent times has been Chris Wilder's unusual tactic of overlapping centre backs.

The Blades finished second in the Championship last season, with the best defensive record in the division, and so far this term they have conceded only seven from eight games – only Liverpool had conceded fewer going into this weekend.

Michael Cox of zonalmarking.net explains their strategy: "Last season Wilder generally fielded a 3-4-1-2 system, but this season he’s flipped the midfield triangle, so it’s now more of a 3-1-4-2. The crucial, almost unique part of the system involves the wide centre-backs, Jack O’Connell and Chris Basham, who make aggressive overlapping runs into crossing positions, helping the Blades overload the flanks.

"Those overloads in wide positions are the main things to watch out for - it’s usually the centre-backs who make those unusual runs, but the wing-backs and even central midfielders are also capable of popping up there."

But they have been slow to get going this term, scoring just one goal before half-time in the Premier League, fewer than any other side. All seven of their goals have also all been scored by different players, including benefitting from two own goals.


MANIC MONDAY

This is our second Monday night fixture of the season so far, having drawn 1-1 at Old Trafford last month. Our record in Monday fixtures is generally excellent though, having lost just one of our last 17 such games (against Crystal Palace in April 2017).

However, Sheffield United have also experienced some happy Mondays in the last few years, and haven't lost a league game on that day since January 2012, winning six and drawing six of the 12 fixtures in the past seven years.

But this will be their first Monday night game in the top flight for nearly 13 years, when they lost 3-1 to Middlesbrough back in January 2007. You can be sure the Bramall Lane faithful will be in good voice for the return of the Sky Sports cameras for a Premier League night game.