Blunt performance by the Irons
I've been defending Pellegrini for the last few weeks but now I myself have some doubts. A mystifying line-up to start the game. Ogbonna, arguably one of our better players in last weeks defeat to Everton dropped along with Ryan Fredericks who has been one of our better players this season. At least he was correct in leaving out both Lanzini and Fornals who had shockers last week, both dropping to the bench, along with Masuaku who didn't even make the bench. Snodgrass returned to the starting line-up which I hoped meant that Anderson would be playing as the number 10 off Haller, the position he played more frequently for Lazio, especially as we were facing three centre-backs. Alas no, and again Haller was left isolated up front and his body language is beginning to say "why did I sign for this club".
In the first half we were clearly the better team but seemed to be missing that final pass. Plenty of possession, far more energy than last week but no killer touch or pass resulting in few really clear chances. In fact, later in the half it was the Blades who had the more clear cut efforts. However, after Roberto gathered the ball following a failed Sheffield United attack, he pumped it long downfield towards Haller who was beaten to the ball by the Blades defender who could only head into the direction of Yarmolenko. His first time volley beautifully set up man of the match Snodgrass who ran on to the pass and cooly slotted past Henderson to give the Irons a first half lead.
Clearly Blades Chris Wilder manager changed things in the second half and they came out as a more attacking unit with the game taking an 180 degree flip. In a reversal of roles it was now Sheffield United having more possession without crating the chances and West Ham having the more clearer opportunities on the break. However, it was no surprise when the Blades did equalise in the 69th minute. A speculative cross was not dealt with well by the Irons back line and when the ball dropped for the sub Mousset he hit a sweet volley into the bottom corner. Despite having a good game, I felt that Roberto could have and should have saved it.
Lanzini replaced the again ineffectual Anderson, and again did very little. Fornals replaced Noble and apart from one great cross didn't really change things. Ajeti came on for Snodgrass to provide some support for Haller but it was too little too late and with Sheffield United showing little attempt to win the game it petered out to a 1-all draw.
So, the brief run of defeats has ended but a point at home to a team like Sheffield United is not progress, especially after a home defeat to Palace and the away defeat at struggling Everton. Despite some quick players in the team we do not attack with pace, we seem to lack someone who can unlock tight defences and play a system which isolates our main striker and this one dimensional approach has been worked out by most teams. I feel that if Sheffield United had been as adventurous in the first half as they were in the second they could have easily won.
Next week we have the visit of Newcastle United, a team currently just outside the relegation places (could be in it if results go against them) and surely a manager of Pellegirinis experience can come up with a plan to beat them. However, with the potential of Andy Carroll, ironically back form injury, returning to one of his old stamping grounds we know where this could end up.