Sheffield United lost their first Premier League match of the season as Leicester City kept up their own unbeaten record with a 2-1 win at Bramall Lane.
We’ll assess what the victory for Brendan Rodgers’ side meant for Fantasy managers in our latest Scout Notes.
Sheffield United 1-2 Leicester City
- Goals: Oli McBurnie (£5.9m) | Jamie Vardy (£8.9m), Harvey Barnes (£5.9m)
- Assists: George Baldock (£4.5m) | James Maddison (£7.0m), Caglar Soyuncu (£4.5m)
- Bonus: Baldock – 3, Vardy – 2, Maddison, McBurnie – 1
Sheffield United may have fallen to their first defeat of 2019/20 but there were still positives to take for those Fantasy managers who have invested in the Blades’ assets.
John Lundstram (£4.1m) was the only United outfield player involved on Saturday who was owned by more than 1% of FPL bosses and his Gameweek 3 blank felt almost inevitable following his 14-point haul against Crystal Palace.
Lundstram was the most-bought FPL defender of the Gameweek just gone, with just under 475,000 Fantasy managers drafting him into their squads.
A second yellow card in as many matches and the concession of two goals meant that Lundstram ended up on zero points from the meeting with the Foxes but the 25-year-old central midfielder could easily have bagged his second goal of the season, having been denied by a superb stop from Kasper Schmeichel (£5.0m) in the second half.
The area in which he popped up for that ‘big chance’ was similar to where he scored the Blades’ winner against Palace from and is encouraging to see from an FPL perspective, with his role in the Sheffield United engine room not just limited to passes from deep or tackles on the opposition.
Never afraid to chance his arm from distance, Lundstram also let fly with a long-range effort on 20 minutes that narrowly crept over Schmeichel’s bar.
At the other end of the pitch, the Blades performed well against Leicester’s dangerous front three for much of the game.
Two early headed half-chances from Jamie Vardy (£8.9m) and James Maddison (£7.0m) drifted wide and centre-back John Egan (£4.5m) did well against the Foxes’ number nine thereafter, with Vardy restricted to fewer touches than any other starting player at Bramall Lane.
Indeed, Leicester were indebted to an error from Chris Basham (£4.5m) in order to break the deadlock – Ayoze Perez‘s (£6.4m) tackle on the Blades’ stopper ultimately leading to Vardy’s deadlock-breaking goal on 37 minutes.
It took a thunderbolt from Harvey Barnes (£5.9m) to settle the game and in truth, Leicester didn’t create too many gilt-edged opportunities against their hosts – something that perhaps bodes well for the Blades’ clean sheet count further down the road.
Despite the positives, boss Chris Wilder wasn’t overly impressed and pulled no punches in his post-match interview.
His back five came in for criticism despite their overall solidity, with Wilder highlighting the lack of attacking ambition from his much-heralded backline:
We have to be braver. By that, I mean we were not brave enough defensively in the first half. We did not get high enough up the pitch to put pressure on Leicester.
It was difficult for our two centre-forwards to either engage their centre-halves or get round the back. The back five never got out enough. We have to be braver and stick to how we play, regardless of who are the opposition.
That was disappointing. I highlighted it at half-time and after the restart, we were a lot better. It gave us an opportunity to engage higher up the pitch – and then go from there to create more.
I recognise we were undone by two really good goals, especially the second one. They were both exceptional. In the Championship, we might have got away with a 1-1.
But, indirectly, the positional play of our back five – including the three centre-halves – did not do us any favours. Now, we learn from that. We have had days in the past where we have had to do the same.
The Blades perhaps weren’t as creative as they had been against Palace, with the likes of Lundstram and Oliver Norwood (£5.0m) not as productive in the final third from a distribution perspective.
The home side increasingly relied on crosses into the box and it was from a George Baldock (£4.5m) delivery that substitute Oli McBurnie (£5.9m) glanced in United’s equaliser on the hour.
Enda Stevens (£5.0m) came up from the Championship with the reputation for being the most attack-minded of the Blades’ wing-backs but, as we highlighted in a Members’ article last week, Baldock has caught the eye with his prominence in the final third.
Again, no player delivered more crosses than Baldock from open play at Bramall Lane.
McBurnie’s goal means that he joins Billy Sharp (£6.0m) on one Premier League goal for the season – despite neither of them starting a game yet.
Wilder again went with the out-of-position Callum Robinson (£5.4m) and David McGoldrick (£5.5m) up front for the third game running but the pair struggled to make much of an impression despite putting in some hard graft and were hooked early in the second half.
McBurnie’s goal and Wilder’s post-match comments perhaps suggest a change might be imminent in attack, then, ahead of the trip to Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Oli’s general play is excellent. Him and Billy Sharp coming on gave the centre-halves more problems than Callum Robinson and David McGoldrick did in the first half. To score a goal is great for Oli and he is knocking on the door to start now. His performance is a highlight for us.
Luke Freeman (£5.5m) put down a marker for another start in west London with a decent showing in central midfield but Wilder may have the injured John Fleck (£4.9m) back for Gameweek 4.
On Fleck, Wilder said:
He wasn’t close at all for Saturday, but we’ve got a full week now and hopefully he’ll be out on the grass pretty early.
We’ve got a couple of bumps and bruises from the weekend, which’ll mean a few players miss Tuesday.
But there’s nothing long term; we’ve got no long-term injuries at all.
We’re hopeful John will be ready for the weekend and if he does make it, I expect we’ll have a full hit to choose from.
The Foxes were far from fluent at Bramall Lane and still have to fully convince at either end of the pitch, having really impressed at the back-end of 2018/19.
Vardy is at least up and running for the season, having blanked in his previous four Premier League starts.
The Leicester striker has repeatedly been a stat-buster over the years and this was yet another instance of him being relatively anonymous in a game before popping up with a clinically taken strike.
We mentioned in last week’s Scout Notes that Vardy was more dangerous at Chelsea than his tally of one goal attempt suggested and all it took on Saturday was a dispossession from Perez and a fine pass from James Maddison (£7.0m) for the long-serving striker to end his mini-drought.
Maddison was again Leicester’s creative spark as the likes of Youri Tielemans (£6.4m) and full debutant Dennis Praet (£5.5m) struggled in central midfield, with the England international producing a pinpoint pass for Vardy’s goal and looking the most potent of the Foxes’ front three.
Having again started on the left flank, we could potentially see Maddison in a central role in Gameweek 4 given Praet’s so-so performance and Barnes’ impact upon his introduction.
Rodgers said of Maddison:
There’s not too many players who can play the pass he (Maddison) made for the first goal.
His touch and his through ball were sensational. Jamie doesn’t even need a touch, it comes right into his path and he does what he does best, it was a wonderful finish.
Everyone sees the chances he creates. He finds space and can manipulate the ball and create chances for other players.
Perez’s struggles continue, however, with the former Newcastle United attacker – who started slowly in his previous two seasons, too – again not quite clicking with his teammates.
Moves tended to break down with Perez in possession, although his role in Leicester’s first goal was to be applauded and his off-the-ball work (he made more tackles and interceptions than any FPL forward last season) is part of his appeal from Rodgers’ point of view.
That means little from a Fantasy perspective, of course, and he came out of this encounter without having registered a single shot on goal.
There were glimmers of hope – Perez was, for the second week running, only a Vardy pass away from having a glorious opportunity with the goal gaping but, on this occasion, the Leicester striker’s header was misdirected and forced Perez wide.
On the injury front, Christian Fuchs (£4.5m) again started at left-back in the absence of Ben Chilwell (£5.5m), while Wilfred Ndidi (£5.0m) missed out with a hamstring problem.
On Ndidi’s injury, Rodgers said:
He tweaked his hamstring just slightly against Chelsea, and he just felt it. He had a scan on it and it’s just a minor strain, but hopefully, he will rejoin the team training in mid-week and then be ready for next Saturday.
Sheffield United XI (3-5-2): Henderson; Basham (Morrison 78′), Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Freeman, Stevens; Robinson (Sharp 54′), McGoldrick (McBurnie 54′).
Leicester City XI (4-3-3): Schmeichel; Pereira, Soyuncu, Evans, Fuchs; Tielemans (Mendy 89′), Choudhury, Praet (Barnes 64′); Perez (Morgan 77′), Vardy, Maddison.
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