“I’ve been thinking there might actually be more penalties this season,” emails Patrick Cullen, “due to the use of VAR. Can I take it you disagree, or will Palace be using a different penalty taker?”
That’s a good point. I’m sure Palace will be sticking with their man, but perhaps he might do as well for the reason you give.
And I say that as someone who doesn’t like 3-5-2 on the basis that you can’t just forget about the corners of the pitch if you want to be good. But if you want to make it difficult, that’s a different thing.
A hypothesis: for a team seeking to survive, 3-5-2 is the best formation. They don’t get outnumbered in midfield, they’ve got two strikers to take advantage of any attacking aggro they can cause, and the men to defend the box. If a team is good enough to go around the sides and between wing-back and centre-back, so be it.
Funnily enough, the Shamen perpetrated one of my linguistic hates, in Ebeneezer Goode. This verse is an absolute bazzer … except for the bit where “mischievous” becomes “mischievious”.
“You can see that he’s mischievous, mysterious and devious
When he circulates amongst the people in the place
But once you know he’s fun, and something of a genius
He gives a grin that goes around from face to face to face
Backwards and then forwards, forwards and then backwards
‘Eezer is the geezer who loves to muscle in
That’s about the time the crowd all shout the name of ‘Eezer
As he’s kotcheled in the corner, laughing by the bass bin.”
“Are we to expect The Shamen and the Sky Strikers at half-time,” wonders Gary Naylor. Mr C is busy, so I believe they’ve hired Marcus Brigstocke.
Sky have just shown some of this little ripper (yes, caveats, but a ripper nonetheless).
Simple enough teams, then: United are unchanged, while Palace bring back Zaha, who replaces Ayew.
Sheffield United (an unarguable 3-5-2): Henderson; Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens; McGoldrick, Robinson. Subs: Moore, Jagielka, Osborn, Besic, Freeman, McBurnie, Freeman.
Crystal Palace (a Paulo Coelho-influenced 4-4-2): Guaita; Ward, Kelly, Dann, Van Aanholt; Townsend, McArthur, Milijoevic, Meyer; Benteke, Zaha. Subs: Hennessey, Cahill, Schlupp, McCarthy, Kouyate, Wickham, Ayew.
Football is about so many things beyond football that to bang on about football sometimes feels gauche. Most of the time, the 90 minutes are a disappointment, and we don’t keep coming back on the off-chance that this time they won’t be.
As such, how well a team does or doesn’t do isn’t the most important thing about it, so to chunter about Sheffield United finally being back in the Premier League is to ignore the multitude of other things going on, both at Bramall Lane and elsewhere. Except Sheffield United being back in the Premier League is a huge deal, and today is a huge fixture.
Like most promoted sides, their principal goal is to avoid relegation, and Billy Sharp’s late equaliser last weekend earned them a crucial point in that regard. Now, this week, they have a home fixture which comes with its own cliche: “The kind of game you have to win if you want to stay up”.
They’ve a decent chance of doing it. Chris Wilder clearly knows something, and because he has kept faith with the players who achieved promotion, his team are grooved and confident. They know what they’re doing, and trust themselves to pull it off effectively.
Palace, meanwhile, look a little wobbly. Though they opened the season with a creditable goalless draw against Everton, over the summer they lost Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Wilfried Zaha, their two best players, physically and spiritually respectively – so need to find a quick solution.
Chances are, Zaha will quickly revert to his old self, but Roy Hodgson’s back four has the aroma of Nationwide, and it seems unlikely that Luka Milivojevic, last season’s top scorer, might again be afforded the 10 penalties which made that happen. Defeat today will say very bad things about their prospects.
Kick-off: 2pm BST