How Have Sheffield United Been Able to Upset the Odds?
Upon gaining promotion to the Premier League following their second-placed finish in the Championship last season, Chris Wilder’s side has continued to surpass expectations in England’s top-flight. Prior to the suspension of the league, Sheffield United were sat in seventh position, five points away from fourth-placed Chelsea with a game in hand. So, how have the blades been able to do this?
Taking the League by Storm
Since the turn of the new year, the Blades have lost just two matches in all competitions, suffering defeats against Liverpool, the runaway leaders, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United. Fundamentally, Sheffield United’s home form has been instrumental in emphatically upsetting pre-season expectations, where they were tipped by many to be relegated. Regardless of the opponent, Wilder sets his team out in the same expansive manner in seeking to cause those that visit Bramall Lane problems.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Blades’ tactical shape is the revolutionary style that their 52-year-old manager has implemented in relation to the central defenders. While, in the modern game, ball-playing qualities are widely sought after in a centre-half, the South Yorkshire-based system allows the likes of Chris Basham and Jack O’Connell, who typically play on either side of a back three, to showcase their offensive abilities.
In possession, this allows the two wing-backs, generally Enda Stevens and George Baldock, to occupy central positions and overload the midfield area. Crucially, this works because Wilder’s tactical approach is based on the intelligence of his squad, knowing when to push forward into the half-spaces and when to instead sit back.
Sensible Recruitment Has Resulted in European Ambitions
Before the Premier League was suspended, the fact that Sheffield United were among the favorites with football betting to qualify for European competition next season is a testament to their well-thought-out player recruitment. It's clear for all to see that sensible spending which doesn’t negatively affect the club’s long-term future is at the very core of their approach when it comes to investing in their playing staff. Oliver McBurnie and Sander Berge are both prime examples of this, as they showcase Wilder’s youthful approach to Premier League recruitment.
Crucially, such well-thought-out transfers have filled the Bramall Lane faithful with optimism for their future in the Premier League and, potentially, Europe. As suggested above, the Blades could move within two points of a Champions League spot if they are to win the extra fixture that they have over Frank Lampard’s Chelsea.
At the time of writing, there is little certainty surrounding when the Premier League is likely to continue. That said, the suspension is allowing every club in the division the time to get their playing squads back to a fit and healthy state. Importantly, this is most likely to indirectly benefit the Blades and Wolves, who, on paper, have the thinnest squads of those chasing a European finish. In turn, at the resumption of the season, Sheffield United will be ready to compete once again at a high level, and, unlike those around them, don’t have pre-existing European responsibilities to focus their attentions on.
A Prime Example of Staying True to Roots and Achieving Success
While the wait to see just how high up the league Sheffield United can finish, the Blades are well-placed to continue surpassing expectations. Despite currently sitting in a Europa League spot, the sky is the limit for Chris Wilder’s side, who will have one eye on a top-four finish in their remaining ten matches. Moreover, the Blades’ long-term Premier League future looks bright, with the club demonstrating their abilities to continually upset the odds.
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