Premier League unsung heroes: Sheffield United’s Chris Basham

Sheffield United’s longest serving player Chris Basham has played a pivotal role in their excellent first season back in the Premier League in 13 years.

The 31-year old’s consistent displays may have gone unnoticed outside the walls of Sheffield this term. But why? Only Liverpool can boast a better defence than the South Yorkshire side this season with the right-sided centre-back starting in United’s back three in every Premier League game.

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Their 25 goals conceded from 28 played is the fewest they have conceded at this stage of a top division season in 120 years and they have already amassed 43 points, which is the most they have had at this stage in the top flight in 48 years.

Basham has been one of the best central defenders in the Premier League this season. No centre-back has won more tackles, made more interceptions or won possession in the attacking third more than him this season.

Basham has won 57 per cent of tackles made (35 won from 61), by comparison Harry Maguire has won 62 per cent (20 from 32), Virgil van Dijk has won 55 per cent (12 from 22), and Victor Lindelof has won 43 per cent (10 from 23).

Basham has also made eight more interceptions than Maguire and 31 more than Van Dijk. The Sheffield United player has made the same number of headed clearances as Maguire (80) and 13 more than Van Dijk.

In fact, only Burnley’s James Tarkowski has made more headed clearances in the Premier League this season (81).

Overall, Basham has won 193 of his duels – the second most by a Premier League centre-back this season behind Tarkowski – which is four more than Maguire and eight more than Van Dijk. You would expect Sheffield United defenders to be busier than Manchester United or Liverpool defenders but these stats are impressive nonetheless.

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Most distance run by centre-backs (PL 2019/20)

Most sprints by centre-backs (PL 2019/20)

All three of Sheffield United’s tireless back line find themselves in the top seven of all centre-backs for most distance run per game in the Premier League this season. But no Premier League centre-back has run further than the over-lapping pair of Jack O’Connell and Basham – and in terms of sprints, only Brighton’s Dan Burn has made more than Basham.

Basham has been the most used player under Chris Wilder, playing in 172 of his 184 games in charge, including 162 starts. His over-lapping runs down the right have been a key feature of United’s play this season with 42 per cent of their attacking play coming down the right-hand side which has featured ever-presents George Baldock and Basham. No other Premier League side has attacked more down the right flank than Sheffield United this season.

Another string to the defender’s bow is his ability to win more fouls than he concedes, winning four more fouls than he’s conceded in the Premier League this season. No other Blade has a higher positive differential of fouls won than committed than Basham this season, in fact the only other outfield player to have won more fouls than conceded is Billy Sharp (+3).

Looking at all Premier League sides, the only regular centre-backs to have better differentials than Basham this season are Van Dijk (+11), Mason Holgate (+11), Jan Vertonghen (+10), Ezri Konsa (+9) and Grant Hanley (+8).

Basham is relishing his sixth season at Bramall Lane after joining on a free transfer from Blackpool in 2014 and has endured many ups and downs in a career which has seen him rack up 400 senior appearances. Some may forget this is his third stint in the Premier League after spells with Bolton and Blackpool.

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