Sheffield United find themselves in a perilous position with half of the 2020/21 Premier League season already played. The Blades have a dismal five points from a possible 57 and sit at the foot of the Premier League table, six points below West Bromwich Albion in 19th, and 11 points from safety.
Sheffield United Players Who Could Stay in Top Flight
Club on Course for Record Low Premier League Points Tally
The club are in real danger of relegation to the Championship and it appears impossible that they will be able to earn enough points to survive. United finally managed to earn their first league win of the season on January 12th in their 18th game of the campaign. This is the longest it has ever taken a Premier League to record their first league win in a season.
The previous record low Premier League points tally came in the 2007/08 season when Derby County only managed to accrue a measly 11 points. It has widely been assumed that this unwanted record will never be broken, however, at the current rate, the South Yorkshire club will finish the season on just ten points.
After the heroics of last season, where Chris Wilder steered his men to a ninth-place finish in their first season since promotion, few would have predicted this drastic fall from grace. Injuries have not helped, with key players missing for periods of the season so far which has led to an unsettled starting eleven. The lack of fans can also not be overlooked as the Bramall Lane crowd played a key part in making their home ground something of a fortress last season. It must also not be forgotten how few of the Sheffield United players had prior Premier League experience and many of them had been part of the club’s squad in League One. Wilder has said himself that the squad he has is full of Championship and League One players and they must not forget that.
Hard work is the foundation of the recent success of the club and few gave them any chance of survival last season due to the perceived lack of Premier League quality in the side. They took everyone by surprise last and only fell away from the European qualification spots late on, however this season the club has come crashing down to earth.
Sheffield United Players May Get Premier League Lifeline
It appears inevitable that Sheffield United will not have what it takes to stay in the Premier League. It would take a great escape of the like never seen before in the Premier League and, with Wilder seemingly low on ideas, it’s difficult to envisage this. Therefore, in order to stay in the Premier League, Sheffield United’s players may have to look for a new club. This begs the question, which members of their squad could earn a Premier League move in the summer?
Aaron Ramsdale: Back-to-Back Relegations
Should Sheffield United fail to beat the drop, Aaron Ramsdale will be the unfortunate number one goalkeeper for consecutive relegations. Ramsdale joined Sheffield United for £18 million in the summer following relegation with Bournemouth after establishing himself as the Cherries’ first choice ‘keeper.
Ramsdale is only 22-years-old and is an England U21 international who is highly rated. However, consecutive relegations look bad on any player’s record and it may put Premier League clubs off making a move for the stopper, even if his form has generally been good in his Premier League career.
It is difficult to envisage any of the alternative Sheffield United goalkeepers earning themselves a Premier League move unless they are willing to settle for being second or third choice. Wes Foderingham, Simon Moore, Michael Verrips and Jake Eastwood are all goalkeepers on the club’s books but they may have to either stay at the club or look outside of England’s top flight for their next move.
Unorthodox Tactics Could Hinder Defenders
In the 2019/20 season, Sheffield United’s strong campaign was built on their resilient defence. Wilder named the same back three almost week-on-week of Chris Basham, Jack O’Connell and John Egan, with George Baldock and Enda Stevens regularly deployed at wing-back. This season there has been a lot more of an unsettled feel to the United backline, with injuries meaning the likes of veteran defender Phil Jagielka, Jack Robinson and Ethan Ampadu often having to play in the back three. Summer signings Jayden Bogle and Max Lowe have also featured in the wing-back positions.
Wilder and his defenders have earned many plaudits on the flexible nature of the Sheffield United defence, with overlapping a key feature of their play. However, should the club be relegated, this unorthodox tactic may work against the centre-backs. Clubs may be concerned with their individual ability in playing a more conventional defensive shape.
Despite this, there are still likely to be Premier League clubs keen on a number of the Blades’ backline. George Baldock has earned a good reputation at full-back and could find himself picked up in the summer. John Egan, Jack O’Connell and Chris Basham have all impressed, with Basham’s age potentially the one thing working against him at 32.
Elsewhere it is difficult to see who could stay in the league. Jayden Bogle and Max Lowe are both young and still to prove themselves at the top level. Phil Jagielka is 38 now and it would be a surprise if he prolongs his career beyond this season. Ethan Ampadu is on loan and will return to Chelsea at the end of the season and it is unlikely that any of the other defenders associated with the club will earn Premier League moves.
Midfield the Blades’ Strongest Area
One position where Sheffield United can expect a lot of interest is midfield. The club play a midfield three and have central midfield players which could prove decent acquisitions for Premier League clubs. However, while the midfield is very industrious, it does lack a certain level of creativity with only one league goal and three league assists between them so far this season.
The player likely to be subject to the most Premier League interest is Sander Berge. The 22-year-old Norwegian joined the club in January 2020 for £22 million and is the one player in the squad who has a real air of quality about him. Berge is a commanding presence in midfield at 6’4″ and has a wide range of passing, as well as taking the majority of set pieces. With 24 international caps already to his name, Berge is perhaps the only player in the Sheffield United squad who could push for a move to a team in the top half of the Premier League.
Before the arrival of Berge, Sheffield United’s midfield three picked themselves. John Fleck and John Lundstram played either side of Oliver Norwood, who tends to sit a little deeper than his fellow midfielders. Fleck brings remarkable energy to proceedings and could be a shrewd bit of business for a Premier League club, with the fee likely to be low. Lundstram made a strong start to life in the Premier League and managed five league goals in the 2019/20 season but fell victim to the arrival of Berge in January and often found himself left out. When he has played his form has dipped and he may do well to earn a Premier League move.
Norwood is an experienced head at 29 and has made 57 international appearances for Northern Ireland. He is a good passer of the ball and could be useful to a team at the lower end of the Premier League table, or perhaps a newly promoted side. Ben Osborn is unlikely to avoid dropping to the Championship while Jack Rodwell has perhaps seen his final chance in the Premier League come and go, with the midfielder yet to feature in the league this season.
Forwards the Weak Point
Sheffield United have struggled for goals this season, scoring only ten in their first 19 games of the Premier League season. In the 2019/20 season, strikers Oli McBurnie and Lys Mousset finished joint top scorers for the club with six league goals. However, the pair only have one league goal between them this season. It would be interesting to see if they can secure themselves Premier League moves in the summer. McBurnie is an unconventional centre forward who works hard and Mousset has had plenty of time to prove himself in the Premier League having joined Bournemouth in 2016.
It would be difficult to make a strong case for any of the Blades’ strikers being approached by Premier League clubs in the summer. Oliver Burke is yet to get off the mark in the league (although did net in the FA Cup win at Bristol Rovers) following his summer move from West Brom. Rhian Brewster has also failed to make an impact following his £23.5 million summer move from Liverpool, which raised eyebrows due to the lack of senior football played in the 20-year-old’s fledgeling career. Brewster may well be wise to drop down to the Championship again to gain some vital experience.
Billy Sharp is a local lad and has become a club legend but at 34-years-old he is unlikely to leave the club he holds so dear now. Due to his age and low Premier League goals return, it is also unlikely there will be too many Premier League clubs trying to tempt him, even if he is the highest scorer in English football in the 21st century.
David McGoldrick is arguably the only striker that has performed for United this season, with the ex-Republic of Ireland international scoring five league goals so far, having only managed two last season. McGoldrick could be subject to Premier League interest in the summer should his form continue. However, at 33, clubs may opt to look elsewhere for a younger alternative.
Wilder Unlikely to Get Premier League Job
Chris Wilder’s reputation has grown remarkably over the last few seasons. Praise was heaped on the Sheffield local who had worked his way up the football pyramid to take his hometown club to the Premier League. The style of play he had implemented earned many admirers in the top flight, especially when the low budget spent was considered.
This season though, Wilder and his team have really struggled and the manager cannot be blameless. Injuries haven’t helped matters but Wilder has been unable to get a tune out of his players all season and the perceived lack of quality in the squad is now clear to see.
While Wilder’s credentials had been on a meteoric rise previously, this season they have come crashing back down to earth. If the club are relegated without any real upturn in form it is difficult to see how Wilder can keep his job and it would be remarkable if a Premier League team turned to him after such a dire season.
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