The time might be coming to raise expectations regarding promoted Sheffield United, who look to run their unbeaten streak to eight matches Thursday when they host Newcastle United.
The Blades (4-7-3) are eighth in the table on 19 points, ahead of Arsenal on goal difference, after matches played Tuesday. They claimed a point for the third straight match with Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Wolverhampton as Lys Mousset’s goal in the second minute was canceled out by an equaliser from Wolves’ Matt Doherty.
The result kept Sheffield United unbeaten on the road, where they have claimed nine points with a victory and six draws. That is the seventh-best total among all Premier League teams and one more than fellow new boys Aston Villa and Norwich City combined.
“If people turn up and think it’s going to be easy, they’re in for a shock,” midfielder Oliver Norwood told the Yorkshire Post. “It’s irrelevant to us, we know what we’re good at, we know our strengths and how we’re going to play. If teams don’t respect us – which I don’t think is the case – we’ll punish them.”
While Mousset has been in fine form – he has a team-high five goals in just 504 minutes in league play – the same cannot be said for fellow striker David McGoldrick. The Ireland international has yet to score in 797 minutes over 11 league matches, including 10 starts, but Norwood thinks it is just a matter of time before his contributions go beyond selfless play to scoring goals.
“The goal will come for him,” Norwood added. “It’s one of those things at the minute. But it’s not just the goals, it’s what he brings to the team. We’re a different team with him in it at the minute. We appreciate how good a footballer he is and it will come, no doubt about that.
“We’re fortunate to have a footballer of that class in our team. He’s definitely under-rated. We’re a better team with him in it than not, we proved that all last season and again this season.”
Newcastle United (4-4-6) are 14th in the table on 16 points, four points clear of the bottom three through matches played Tuesday. The Magpies have taken half of those points over their last five matches, including a vital one Saturday with a 2-2 draw at home versus two-time champions Manchester City.
Jonjo Shelvey rescued the point with a well-placed and well-struck right-footed shot from 20 yards, taking a pass from Christian Atsu off a free kick drawn by Javier Manquillo. Jetro Willems had pulled Newcastle level in the 25th minute canceling out a goal by Raheem Sterling three minutes prior.
“I think we did well defensively – that’s our strength, especially at home,” Willems told Chronicle Live. “I think we would have been disappointed if we didn’t get a point. I think we could have won the game also; it was a lucky goal, (their) first one.
“We need to have the same focus in away games – we did it against Tottenham, against West Ham and against Liverpool too, where we were unlucky,” the Dutchman added. “It’s possible and we can do it. We are in a good shape and a good way now. The last game was just unlucky, and we have to forget it. We can be glad and now we just have to focus on the next game.”
The Toons continue to be without long-term injury absentees Jamaal Lascelles and Matt Ritchie. The former and talisman likely will not be available until after the holiday fixtures, while Ritchie is expected to be sidelined until January.
This is the first top-flight meeting between the sides since Newcastle recorded a 2-1 victory at Bramall Lane in 2007 on an 80th-minute goal by Steven Taylor. The Magpies did the double in the most recent matchups between the teams in the Championship in 2009-10.