Sheffield United have made a promising start to life back in the top flight and might just fancy their chances of getting a positive result at home to Arsenal at Bramall Lane (3pm ET Monday).
The club were down in League One just three seasons ago, but two promotions in three years, the latter achieved by finishing second in the Championship last season, have seen them return to the Premier League for the first time since their single year there in 2006-07.
The aim for Chris Wilder and his side is to secure a longer stay this time around and they haven’t looked too out of place. Sheffield Utd’s first eight fixtures have yielded two wins, three draws and three defeats. They have drawn at Chelsea, won at Everton, and are yet to lose by more than a single goal. They are one of five teams with a perfectly even goal difference.
Wilder’s team made waves in the Championship with a bold style of play in which the wide central defenders in their 3-4-1-2 formation regularly advanced beyond the wing-backs into attacking areas. It was a more balanced approach than many of the other sides towards the top of the table. Sheffield Utd were the only side in the top six to concede less than one goal per match on average and their style seems to have transferred quite well to the Premier League.
The Blades invested more than champions Norwich but significantly less than the playoff winners Aston Villa over the summer, adding to their overwhelmingly British squad to bulk it out for the top flight. Striker Oliver McBurnie was the most expensive arrival, at a shade over $22million (£17m). While his shot output could do with some improvement, he is proving to be a solid, hard-working focal point for their attack.
Overall, United have looked pretty good to date. If they could maintain their current points accumulation over the entire campaign, they would finish on somewhere around 43 points. That is a mark that has always provided survival throughout the Premier League era. The early running suggests there are at least three worse teams than them in the division.
Almost by default, Arsenal find themselves at the head of the pack behind the two most likely title contenders, Liverpool and Manchester City. They finished fifth last season, missing out on Champions League qualification for the third consecutive campaign. Chelsea are hot on their heels, but Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United have endured difficult starts, allowing Arsenal to establish an early advantage over both of them.
It doesn’t seem that the Gunners themselves have improved. They are accumulating points at a very similar rate to last season and their underlying statistics are only marginally better. That might be enough unless that aforementioned pair can swiftly get their act together or Leicester can build on a quietly impressive start to challenge for a top-four place.
Arsenal broadly remain the same beast they were last season: a team who play open football and rely on their ability to outscore opponents. They have conceded two or more goals on four occasions, but have also scored two or more themselves the same number of times.
They also remain the same in terms of their home and away performances. Last season, Arsenal took a higher proportion of their points (64%) at home than any other top-six Premier League soccer side. They took five less points on their travels than any of them. This season, Arsenal are undefeated at home, with 10 points and a +3 goal difference. Away, they have taken five points and have a -1 goal difference. They are the 3rd best in the league at home and only the 10th-best away.
Our Preview’s Sheffield Utd vs Arsenal Betting Picks & Predictions Verdict
All of which is to say that while Arsenal still have enough quality to be worthy of their status as the US offshore bookmakers favorites to come away with all three points on Monday night, Sheffield United still have a decent chance of getting a positive result to underline their solid start to the campaign.