It’s not like Wilder didn’t see the problem coming: he got the club record signing from Rhian Brewster this summer. The striker hasn’t scored and hasn’t come very close in his first three starts, but they were against Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea. Then leaving him out of a game you’d expect the odds to be lower was a little odd.
Would Brewster have scored when Ollie McBurnie hit the bar? Or when he detonated it directly on the keeper? Would he have shown that little cool in the middle of two first-half freaking opportunities?
It was Brewster’s brilliant control, turn and ball that came off the bench that led to McBurnie’s shot. If the Liverpool academy graduate had happened to himself, Sheffield United would likely have doubled their points total for the season. Wilder has spent £ 23million on a striker who can convert the odds his other options consistently turn down: he can’t prove it if he doesn’t play it.
The Blades aren’t creating much and their 0.69 xG against West Ham suggests odds production is just as an issue, and it is – the ever-changing overlapping center-backs have zero. Share close to last season’s influence and the midfield trio of Oliver Norwood, John Fleck and Sander Berge look more and more professional with every game. But an 8.66 xG season illustrates the woes of their ailing forwards when you consider that they have only scored four. Wolves have 6.92 xG and are 12 more points.
West Ham really should have put the game to bed in the second half. But Sébastien Haller’s goal – a first strike from 20 meters – is worth more than any icing that could have been put on the cake. David Moyes is said to have feared that Michail Antonio’s injury would derail the Hammers’ more than repairable start to the season: Haller’s participation would have delighted him.
Only five teams have already scored less than Sheffield United’s four goals after nine Premier League games. Two of them avoided the crash and Sheffield United of course still can. But the supreme confidence they gained last season has dissipated; they have to start over.
This team cannot get back to basics, their style of football does not allow it. West Brom next door is huge. Brewster has to start and someone has to score.
Will Ford is on twitter