David McGoldrick – The Blades VIP who is changing perceptions of what a striker should do

It was nearing the end of another outstanding Sheffield United performance and result in the Premier League. David Mcgoldrick, who had worked tirelessly throughout, was played through on the angle of the right hand channel, he advanced forwards 1 v 1 with the Aston Villa keeper. Whilst there was some pressure from the defender, another good chance to score was missed by the Blades forward. Admittedly, the 2-0 scoreline at that point had the whole stadium fairly comfortable but the reaction to the missed chance was something quite special. Rather than groans, Bramall Lane erupted into a chorus of “Oh David Mcgoldrick” and there in a 30 second window summed up the fans appreciation for their man.

Mcgoldrick is an enigma. The man with the most shots on target in the league without scoring. The player with highest Expected Goals (6.01) without scoring in the league. This is a striker that does not score goals or finish chances and yet he is completely adored and revered as a genius. The argument goes that his overall contribution to the side simply makes United a much better team. There’s merit to this argument as the numbers when Mcgoldrick has started games is shown below:


In the very simple data, Sheffield United win more games, take more points, create more and better chances, score more goals, take more shots and play more passes deep into opposition areas with Mcgoldrick starting games than they do without. That on it’s own is enough of an argument to suggest the Blades fans are on to something with not worrying about his goal tally.

Individually, the stats show Mcgoldrick brings so much more to the team than just helping them be more creative.

Defensive work horse

From all current strikers in the premier league who have played 900 minutes+ Mcgoldrick leads the way in successful defensive actions p90. He is a workhorse that belays his years and previous injury record (which at this point we should not only praise Mcgoldrick for his professionalism,but also the sports science team at the lane headed by Matt Prestridge for getting so many games at such a high work rate out of him). Not only is he a work horse he is effective too at pressing and disrupting the opposition high, no striker from that list has won more defensive duels (which to paraphrase wyscout is basically a duel where the defender looks in control of the situation or the ball is played from the opposition to a player that the Mcgoldrick would be engaged into trying to win the ball). His ability to disrupt the opposition play is shown further by fact out of the 20 strikers who have played 900+ minutes, Didzy is 2nd for interceptions p90. Event data doesn’t tell us everything but it’s fair to say the sight of mcgoldrick tracking back 30 yards to put in a huge challenge and win the ball isn’t rare to Blades fans.

didz defense.PNG

Key Link

Where most Blades fans see with Mcgoldrick is his fantastic link up play.  As the Blades have dropped the no 10 role from their 3-4-1-2 system to a more flat 3 in midfield for more solidity, Mcgoldrick has become even more vital in his intelligent link up play, especially with the wing backs and out wide to create the overloads so vital to the SUFC system. Mcgolrick ranks 3rd from the list of strikers for passes played p90 and ranks 5th for xG chain, a measure of the value of involvement in all possessions the player is involved in that lead to a shot.


There simply isn’t many better in the league at dropping off, combining with the midfield and progressing the ball in the final 3rd. Mcgoldrick also currently has 2 “pre-assists” which is the 3rd highest from the strikers analysed, pre-assist being the pass before an assist that leads to a goal. His technical ability, skill and intelligence is of the highest level. This was shown in great example against Aston Villa at the weekend when the Blades worked and probed to break down a deep defensive block.

didz villa


Goal threat – It will come!

With all of the defensive and creative work in the build up Didzy gets through you’d forgive him for perhaps being less threatening. That simply is not the case for Mcgoldrick. Of all players who’ve played 900+ mins in the premier league from any position this season Mcgoldrick ranks 9th for non penalty xG p90 (0.46), higher than Maupay, Pukki, Mane, Aubameyang, Rashford, Haller and Firminio. Getting into goal scoring positions is a skill, the intelligence and movement to be on the end of chances shouldn’t be snuffed at, Didzy is excellent at being in good areas as his shot map below shows (from understat.com)

didz shot map

Didzy is 5th in the league for shots on target p90 minutes played, he’s accurate, getting into great scoring areas and possess a real threat, some of his finishes have been snatched, some others unlucky. Either way the data bores out that if this continues he will at some point regress to the mean (as he did last season too!) and the goals will flow maybe not to the xG value but at least enough to ensure his brilliant performances get the rewards they deserve on the scoring charts.

David Mcgoldrick is a brilliant footballer, a rare breed of intelligence, technique and industry. He is both perfect and vital to the Blades system, there’s a reason those fans sing his name no matter how many chances he misses.

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