What a season for Chris Wilder’s Blades

I don’t think I was alone in thinking that Sheffield United would struggle in their first season back in the Premier League (PL). I believed The Blades were set to endure a very tough relegation battle, ultimately ending with the Steel City side dropping back to the Championship. How wrong I was.

Chris Wilder’s side has been the surprise package of the 2019/20 campaign to-date. Not even the most optimistic Blades fan would have dared to believe this team could be as high as sixth in the table at this stage.

Promoted in second place, five points behind Championship winners Norwich City, Sheffield United arrived in the PL somewhat under the radar. Most of the talk in the Championship last season was centred around Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa’s quest to return them to the English top flight.

Wilder ensured The Blades finished six points above Bielsa’s men, leaving them to contest the promotion playoffs (where Aston Villa eventually prevailed from the four playoff teams).

After securing an automatic route back to the PL, Wilder turned his attention to the transfer market last summer. In came players like Oliver McBurnie, Lys Mousset and Callum Robinson while goalkeeper Dean Henderson was signed on loan from Manchester United.

Sheffield United have only lost six games in 22 so far with their strength underpinned by a very solid defensive structure. They currently have the joint-second best defensive record in the league, level with Leicester City, behind only Liverpool.

Up until now, Wilder has stuck with a tried and tested back three and midfield five in his starting lineups. Every week, you’ll see Henderson in goals with Chris Basham, John Egan and Jack O’Connell in front of him. The wing-backs or wide-midfielders are George Baldock and Enda Stevens. The middle trio consists of John Lundstram, Oliver Norwood and John Fleck.

The front two is where Wilder has experimented, looking for the strongest pairing. He has to choose two from the Ireland internationals David McGoldrick and Callum Robinson as well as the summer signings, Oliver McBurnie and Lys Mousset.

None of the above-named players is exactly what you would call a household name. Yet, there the are. Sixth in the most expensive league in world football – two points behind commercial giants Manchester United, two ahead of Jose Mourinho’s Spurs and four points above the mighty Arsenal.

Can they maintain that for another four months or so? The squad is extremely limited as you would imagine but they’ve managed to avoid any lengthy injuries to first-team players up to now. Do not bet against them securing a top-eight finish. And that, quite frankly, will be an incredible achievement for Chris Wilder and co.


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