Sheff Utd 1-0 Wolves
- Goals: John Egan (£4.5m)
- Assists: Oliver Norwood (£4.7m)
- Bonus Points: Egan x3, Chris Basham x2 (£4.6m), Dean Henderson (£5.2m)
So soon after Wolves were declared a side to triple-up on, they have now lost two matches in a row and scored in neither of them.
It is no secret that Nuno Espirito Santo’s men have been playing progressively less incisive football with each passing week and it is having an adverse effect on Fantasy favourite Raúl Jiménez (£8.3m).
Even as he was nodding his 15th league goal of the season past Aaron Ramsdale (£4.5m) in the Gameweek 31+ win over Bournemouth, the Mexican was in the middle of a laboured performance which yielded just one effort on goal.
Since then, Jiménez has now blanked for three matches in a row, hardly encouraging ahead of a Gameweek 35+ meeting with an Everton side that has two clean sheets in their last four.
With each passing Gameweek, the mid-priced forward has looked ever more peripheral and hit a new low at Bramall Lane on Wednesday evening.
Against Aston Villa and Arsenal he was guilty of drifting too far wide but at Sheffield United, his positioning was far too deep. As a result, across the 90 minutes, he did not register a single attempt on goal.
There was only one moment in the first half when Jiménez looked like having a shot, as he collecting an Adama Traoré (£5.7m) cross with his chest, only for Chris Basham (£4.6m) to clear.
Sheffield United were certainly in better defensive shape in this one, with Jack O’Connell (£4.5m) finally back in the starting line-up but, as already mentioned, this lack of clinical edge for the Wolves attack has been going on for several games now.
On Wednesday evening, Jiménez dropping deeper did allow for Traoré and Diogo Jota (£6.1m), selected either side of him at the front of a 3-4-3 formation, to make some exciting runs, although it was rare for them to find anyone else in the box when they got there.
“We’ve created chances but it’s very difficult to play against Sheffield. It requires different things from us, a little bit more deep. We had a lot of situations where we unbalanced Sheffield, we had good movements and good chances that we should be more clinical from, but our counter-attacks must be better.” – Nuno Espirito Santo
One man who might feel frustrated not to have been involved more often against Sheffield United was Matt Doherty (£6.4m).
With Jota and Traoré full of running at the very least, there were several occasions when the wing-back was free in a dangerous position either in or around the box, arms outstretched but was ignored.
Knowing that he is still getting into the right areas might be of some encouragement to Doherty’s 12.7% ownership as Nuno goes about trying to find some solutions to Wolves’ recent issues.
It is certainly worth holding onto the wing-back, or any of his defensive colleagues, for Gameweek 35+, especially as it is Everton who come to Molineux.
Not only have the Toffees been largely toothless in attack away from home since the return of the Premier League, Wolves did not look particularly likely to concede at Sheffield United on Wednesday.
They had managed to hold out for 92-and-a-half minutes before John Egan (£4.5m) nodded home a gut-wrenching winner as virtually the last kick of the game.
Up until that point, Rui Patrício (£5.2m) had been largely untroubled. Before limping off, Oli McBurnie (£5.5m) nodded his first-half header straight at the visiting goalkeeper before Billy Sharp (£5.4m) was clearly offside as he netted in the 53rd minute.
George Baldock (£5.0m) headed a Richairo Zivkovic (£4.7m) cross around the post with 15 minutes to go before Lys Mousset (£4.4m) went on a run blasted an effort high and wide.
The first time that owners of Wolves defensive assets really had hearts in their mouths was in stoppage time when a game of pinball took place in the penalty area, leading to Ben Osborn‘s (£4.7m) deflected shot.
With just seconds left, the resulting corner seemed a routine one for Wolves to clear and claim an eighth clean sheet from a possible 10, but Egan rose high enough to secure his second goal in as many Premier League outings.
Galling for backers of the Wolves defence, especially the double-uppers, but at least encouraging enough to warrant going with a similar set-up for the visit of Everton next time out.
It’s Chelsea up next for Sheffield United, who have scored at least twice in each of their Project Restart fixtures. That may be enough to put off investment in the Blades’ defence, but their display on Wednesday might prove a sufficient dampener on interest in Christian Pulisic (£7.2m) and Willian (£7.3m).
As already mentioned, the return of O’Connell brought an instant calm of the Sheffield United backline as if he had never been away, the overlapping centre-back at the heart of much of their approach play too.
Sander Berge (£4.7m) and Osborn are also forming a decent partnership in central midfield, offering decent protection for the three-man defence even with John Lundstram (£4.6m) and John Fleck (£4.7m) out of the team, although the former was fit enough for the bench tonight.
As a result, Henderson was largely untroubled in net, other than Ruben Neves‘ (£5.2m) free-kick striking the bar.
Sheffield United XI: D Henderson; O’Connell, Egan, Basham; Stevens, Osborn, Norwood, Berge, Baldock; McBurnie (Mousset 49′), Sharp (Zivkovic 71′).
Wolves XI: Patrício; Saiss, Coady, Boly; Jonny, Neves, Moutinho, Doherty; D Jota, Jiménez, Traoré (Dendoncker 79′).
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