Chris Wilder
Chris Wilder

Premier League Talking Points: Chelsea's defence; Diogo Jota; What next for Sheffield United?


Tom Carnduff and Gareth Jones pick out the major talking points and punting pointers from the latest Premier League action.



No Blues for Chelsea defence

Gareth Jones

Something we thought we would never say – Frank Lampard’s team can defend! Chelsea’s 3-0 victory at battling Burnley is their fourth clean sheet in the row in all competitions. In Lampard’s three seasons as a manager this is his best defensive run.

In both his first season at Chelsea and debut campaign as a gaffer with Derby in the Sky Bet Championship his best effort was consecutive shutouts.

And it gets even better as you look further back, as it’s actually five clean sheets in six, with the blip coming in the 3-3 with Southampton on October 17.

Kurt Zouma heads home for Chelsea at Burnley
Kurt Zouma heads home for Chelsea at Burnley

But maybe this is not Lampard’s achievement, but Edouard Mendy’s. The £22m signing from Rennes seems to have quickly become the concrete that’s finally secured that wobbly Chelsea defensive wall. He’s been between the sticks for all five clean sheets. The one game he missed? The six-goal thriller with the Saints, where hapless Kepa had another day to forget.

Winless Sheffield United are next up for the Blues, and Lampard and co will be keen to right the 3-0 humiliation to Chris Wilder’s side back in July. The South Yorkshire outfit have mustered only four league goals since that win, with just three of those coming this season.

Chelsea to win to nil is not likely to provide huge value, but the bookies might just consider that 3-0 scoreline at Stamford Bridge in the summer, plus that recent defensive collapse against the Saints, to potentially give punters something.


Backing the big men

Gareth Jones

Talking of Chelsea defenders, here’s a question for you. How many league goals did Kurt Zouma score in the previous six Premier League seasons? The answer is four. Which makes the fact he’s already bagged three in six Premier League games this season even more remarkable.

His powerful header against Burnley is one of the best headed goals you will see all season and showcased his newfound confidence in front of goal.

His strikes against Brighton, on the opening day, Palace and now Burnley have come from corners – in Palace’s case he remained in the box to head home a secondary cross after the original corner was cleared.

Now, Chris Wilder’s Blades - next up for Chelsea - have been known for their strength at set pieces at both ends of the field in the past. However with players like Jack O'Connell missing, that appears to no longer be the case.

They’ve conceded 10 goals in total this term, with two coming from dead ball situations so far and it could have been worse. On Saturday, during Manchester City's 12 shots - eight on target - Aymeric Laporte volleyed wide from six yards out when left unmarked at a corner, and keeper Aaron Ramsdale was forced into three excellent point blank saves from efforts resulting from crosses.

In their last three matches - against City, Liverpool and Fulham - United have conceded 17 corners. Adding their matches against Arsenal and Leeds and that number goes to 26 corners to defend in five games. Zouma will be licking his lips, while a goal from a header from any Chelsea player could also be the bet.


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No Blues for Chelsea defence

Gareth Jones

Something we thought we would never say – Frank Lampard’s team can defend! Chelsea’s 3-0 victory at battling Burnley is their fourth clean sheet in the row in all competitions. In Lampard’s three seasons as a manager this is his best defensive run.

In both his first season at Chelsea and debut campaign as a gaffer with Derby in the Sky Bet Championship his best effort was consecutive shutouts.

And it gets even better as you look further back, as it’s actually five clean sheets in six, with the blip coming in the 3-3 with Southampton on October 17.

But maybe this is not Lampard’s achievement, but Edouard Mendy’s. The £22m signing from Rennes seems to have quickly become the concrete that’s finally secured that wobbly Chelsea defensive wall. He’s been between the sticks for all five clean sheets. The one game he missed? The six-goal thriller with the Saints, where hapless Kepa had another day to forget.

Winless Sheffield United are next up for the Blues, and Lampard and co will be keen to right the 3-0 humiliation to Chris Wilder’s side back in July. The South Yorkshire outfit have mustered only four league goals since that win, with just three of those coming this season.

Chelsea to win to nil is not likely to provide huge value, but the bookies might just consider that 3-0 scoreline at Stamford Bridge in the summer, plus that recent defensive collapse against the Saints, to potentially give punters something.


Backing the big men

Gareth Jones

Talking of Chelsea defenders, here’s a question for you. How many league goals did Kurt Zouma score in the previous six Premier League seasons? The answer is four. Which makes the fact he’s already bagged three in six Premier League games this season even more remarkable.

His powerful header against Burnley is one of the best headed goals you will see all season and showcased his newfound confidence in front of goal.

His strikes against Brighton, on the opening day, Palace and now Burnley have come from corners – in Palace’s case he remained in the box to head home a secondary cross after the original corner was cleared.

Now, Chris Wilder’s Blades - next up for Chelsea - have been known for their strength at set pieces at both ends of the field in the past. However with players like Jack O'Connell missing, that appears to no longer be the case.

They’ve conceded 10 goals in total this term, with two coming from dead ball situations so far and it could have been worse. On Saturday, during Manchester City's 12 shots - eight on target - Aymeric Laporte volleyed wide from six yards out when left unmarked at a corner, and keeper Aaron Ramsdale was forced into three excellent point blank saves from efforts resulting from crosses.

In their last three matches - against City, Liverpool and Fulham - United have conceded 17 corners. Adding their matches against Arsenal and Leeds and that number goes to 26 corners to defend in five games. Zouma will be licking his lips, while a goal from a header from any Chelsea player could also be the bet.


Jota's Liverpool impact

Tom Carnduff

Diogo Jota celebrates his goal against West Ham
Diogo Jota celebrates his goal against West Ham

While Liverpool were a dominant force in English football last season, there were always doubts surrounding the depth of their squad and what would happen if significant injuries started to play a part. They looked to address that in the most recent transfer window and the addition of Diogo Jota is already paying off.

Despite starting for Wolves, Jota knew he would be a squad player at Anfield. Nobody is displacing the trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah but the Portuguese forward is doing exactly what is required - providing the impact.

His strike against West Ham took him to three Premier League goals for the season, two of which have come from the bench. Another remarkable statistic is the fact that he has seen five shots from three substitute appearances. It's always worth considering his shots on target odds in-play when he is brought on.

But the angle for pre-match bets, if indeed he isn't in the starting XI, is backing Jota to score the last goal of the contest.

All three of those league goals have been the last, and while he didn't grab the last goal in his Champions League appearance against Midtjylland, that did at least come in the second-half.

He might have got goals in some of his starts but his best role is to provide that impact from the bench. Jurgen Klopp knows it and Jota likely accepts it. He netted 16 goals in all competitions for Wolves last season, and with four on his tally already, he could well match it without needing as many minutes.


What next for the Blades?

Gareth Jones

How do we judge Sheffield United and Chris Wilder’s future after their lacklustre defeat to Manchester City?

A 1-0 loss to Pep Guardiola’s side is no disgrace and Wilder was keen to point out after the match that "we weren’t playing Rochdale in League One, this is one of the best sides in the world”. However, the manner of the performance was the more deflating element for Blades fans.

The Bramall Lane side built their reputation last season on their bravery, attacking mindset and their willingness to have a go at any side in the division regardless of their history, size or reputation.

That is exactly what they did in their defeat at Liverpool seven days ago, but this performance was poles apart, mustering just one shot on target and lacking any attacking interest.

Manchester City's Kyle Walker scores from long range against his old club
Manchester City's Kyle Walker scores from long range against his old club

Just three goals scored is the lowest in the division and has led to this becoming the Blades worst start to a season since 1975. We have to acknowledge a fairly tough start. They have already come up against Arsenal, Wolves, Leeds, Liverpool and City, but to come out of your first seven games with a single point, adding to losing the last three games of last season, just simply isn't good enough.

There is a strong feeling around the Sporting Life office – when I say office, I mean constant zoom calls - that the first Premier League manager sacking could occur after Monday night’s contest between Fulham and West Brom.

However should Scott Parker and Slaven Bilic be handed a reprieve, then Wilder’s value becomes very interesting, especially when Chelsea are next up, presenting a very real chance the South Yorkshire club will be heading into the next international break still winless.

Wilder is now a club legend after guiding them from Sky Bet League One to the promised land. Combine that with the fact he is a lifelong Blades fan makes him beloved and protected by supporters. So would Abdullah bin Musa'ad risk a public backlash and PR own goal should he drop the axe, particularly after a recent very public court battle for sole ownership with Kevin McCabe.

West Ham, West Brom, Leicester and Southampton await Wilder’s men after the international break, so will he be given those games to finally get his ship pointing the right way, or will the threat of losing those Premier League millions be too strong for his owner to ignore?


Torres to lead the line?

Tom Carnduff

Ferran Torres is denied by Aaron Ramsdale
Ferran Torres is denied by Aaron Ramsdale

Sergio Aguero's latest injury combined with Gabriel Jesus' absence left Pep Guardiola opting to use Ferran Torres as the striker in his preferred 4-3-3 system at Bramall Lane.

Torres didn't disappoint and can consider himself unlucky not to get onto the scoresheet. Five shots in total of which three were on target, and a goalkeeping performance from Aaron Ramsdale that will frustrate a number of forwards across the course of the campaign, meant Torres couldn't grab his first Premier League goal.

Ramsdale was denying some really good opportunities as well. The xG of three of Torres' shots against the Blades were 0.64, 0.27 and 0.13. On another day, he gets a goal.

It's always difficult to predict just what Guardiola will do with his team and he is known for changing on a more regular basis but Torres' performance should be enough to keep him in the front three for the clash against Liverpool next weekend. If he is through the middle, his odds on a goal are worth investigating.

What has stood out is the fact that City, a side who scored 197 goals over the last two seasons, have just nine on their tally across their opening six games. That puts them in 15th in the goals for column. They haven't even been dominating the xG charts either. An xGF rate of just 7.5 left them 13th in this area before today and that has contributed to their low-scoring start to the campaign.

A positive is that their xG score of 1.84 against Sheffield United was their highest in the Premier League since the win over Wolves (2.04) on the first game of the campaign.

With Liverpool seeing their expected goals against rate at above 1.0 across their last four league contests, perhaps Torres will represent good goalscorer value next Sunday.


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