Amid the other big games over the weekend, it might have been easy to miss Sheffield United moving up to fifth place in the Premier League table.
Their draw at Tottenham on Saturday, combined with Arsenal’s defeat to Leicester, meant Chris Wilder’s side are now just a place off the Champions League spots (admittedly eight points back from Manchester City), a pretty extraordinary performance for a newly promoted side.
“All of these players who I confess I hadn’t heard of until the summer, just look like Premier League footballers,” said Michael Cox on this week’s Totally Football Show.
“It’s just brilliant [that they’re in fifth place]. I thought they’d be exciting but a little bit naive and be battling against relegation, but it’s difficult to remember in recent years a side that’s come up and been this exciting and competent from an early stage.
“I think they play better when they move the ball a little more directly, and have forward running from the centre-backs, but it was another great performance from Sheffield United. Lundstrum was very prominent again, Stevens down the left was excellent against Burnley.”
Is this a case of opposition teams just not being able to combat their unusual style of play, their overlapping centre-backs and all, something that may well be figured out in the fullness of time?
“Teams seem to be baffled by it so far,” said Sascha Gurayunov. “I don’t know how long it takes for Premier League managers to figure out how opposition teams play.
“It’s one thing to [figure it out] in theory, but the other thing is players on the pitch, who know almost genetically where to be on the pitch, how to react to certain runs at certain times, then they have these weird centre-backs who might come at them at strange angles – they might not know intuitively where to go in these situations.”
Of course the Blades were helped out by a Spurs team undergoing an existential crisis, a different side to the one we’ve seen in the past.
“Two years ago the one side you wouldn’t try something like that against is Tottenham, because they were so energetic and press so high,” said Michael, about the Sheffield United goal which featured 23 passes, from front to back. “Now, they’re just so passive.”
“Tottenham Hotspur have been bad now for a calendar year,” said Carl Anka. “The Champions League run covered up a huge drop in form: they can’t run anymore, the press has gone, the Belgian pairing at centre-back have dropped off, the fans want to see more of the new signings like Lo Celso and Ndombele.
“They’re in this weird phase where Ndombele is perhaps their best player, but because he’s not quite attuned to the Tottenham Hotspur system, he can’t quite last the 90 minutes.
“It’s very reminiscent of Jurgen Klopp’s final season at Borussia Dortmund, and at the end of the season they should just shake hands and go their separate ways.”
You can listen to the latest edition of the Totally Football Show here, and even better, you can subscribe here. If you wish to reproduce any of the material in this article or from the podcast you are very welcome to, but please credit The Totally Football Show and include this link.