Although the Premier League is contending with the impact of a virus at present, there is another plague that sometimes befalls those who compete in it and with the threat of ‘second season syndrome’ always looming large, two clubs will be hoping they are not floored by its virility. The two clubs that are under threat this season are Aston Villa and Sheffield United and with the former getting off to a perfect start – not to mention their incredible 7-2 win over Liverpool, it is Chris Wilder and the Blades who are currently under scrutiny.
With four consecutive defeats to begin 2020/21 edition of the Premier League, a thermometer may be required to take the temperature of the Blades squad.
Of course, just because Chris Wilder’s men have lost their first four games of this season, should not necessarily suggest that Sheffield United are doomed and they will hope for better fortunes after the international break.
With that said, it is their form across the tail end of last season and the start of this, which starts to paint a much gloomier picture and, with the October break now upon us, the red and white of Sheffield have lost their last seven league outings.
Not since July 11th have Sheffield United won a Premier League game (although in fairness, with the football calendar being so out of sync, we should not read too much into weeks and months), as they got the better of Chelsea by three goals to nil.
That victory at Bramall Lane was the final high watermark of the season and, with many pundits and punters backing them to go down at the first time of asking, to finish in the top half of the table was testament to the collective efforts within the squad.
Not to mention their very plausible bid for Europe throughout the season and it is perhaps this ‘failure’ that has knocked the wind out of their sails, as the dream of an away day subsided with each of those three July defeats.
At the same time, some quarters were even suggesting that ‘second season syndrome’ had already begun at the beginning of the restart phase and with just one point earned from the first nine on offer, it did seem as early regression was on the cards.
Then again those quarters were made to look foolish, as the next four fixtures saw 10 points collected from the 12 that were on offer and if they can awake from a slumber once, Chris Wilder and the Sheffield United players will look to do so again.
If they are to recover from this patch of form, their firepower needs to be given some form of ignition, as only in the fourth outing against Arsenal, did David McGoldrick net the club’s first Premier League goal of the season. They will be desperately hoping that the signing of Rhian Brewster does just that/
Admittedly this is a team not best known for a plethora of goals and you only have to look at the average goals per game for 2019/20 to reinforce this, as they managed a rather paltry 1.02 by the end of it.
Usually a figure that low has you planning for a return to the EFL Championship in double quick time and this is where their case for the defence was so strong, to the point where the average goal against per game was the exact same figure.
If you do not concede goals, you cannot lose matches and unfortunately this is where their previous plan has fallen flat. Six goals have been shipped to date and although that is only an average of 1.5 per game, their attack line cannot bail them out of trouble.
The return of Dean Henderson to Manchester United has undoubtedly been a blow and, even though they’ve spent big on his replacement, there is a feeling that Aaron Ramsdale does not provide the same level of reassurance in goal.
It is too early to write Ramsdale off and if there is a mitigating circumstance, it could be found with the injuries to both Jack O’Connell and John Egan as they have both been absent for the 1-0 defeat to Leeds and the former also missed out on the subsequent reverse to Arsenal.
With the international break now in full swing, this may be the perfect time to assess and regroup within the Sheffield United squad, with Chris Wilder telling his players “to forget the first month, now the hard work really begins”
If a message of this kind can be hammered home, then results may quickly improve. Then again, talking is one thing and now this struggling unit of players must dig deep, if they are to avoid a rather bleak mid-winter.
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