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Chris Wilder: Season so far and what’s gone wrong for the Blades this season?

 

So we’re almost half way through this season’s with 14 matches played and like every other season, there are clubs, players and managers under the spotlight for both right and wrong reasons.

What better team to start off with, than the one sitting at the bottom of the table?

After their recent setback at Bramall Lane, where they lost 3-2 to Manchester United, the Blades have now lost 12 of their 13 Premier League matches this season and are glued to the foot of the table with just ‘ONE’ point.

’s men are now 6 points away of 19th placed West Brom and 9 points adrift of safety, which let’s be honest, is a real cause for concern for a team who were challenging for a European spot last season.

To make matters worse, the Blades disastrous start to the season is now officially the worst in the history of English top-flight football.

 

Remarkably, their 12 defeats so far this season is the same amount of games they lost in the entire last season.

Now remember, Chris Wilder is the same manager that led a newly promoted ’s European charge last season and just fell short. At one point the club were even close to breaking in the Champions League places.

So what’s gone wrong for Chris Wilder and his boyhood club?

TRANSFER STRATEGY GONE HORRIBLY WRONG

Everything good that Chris Wilder had done last season at Sheffield United was undone with some ‘Not so good business’ in the close season transfer window.

The headline maker was the signing of Liverpool youngster Rhian Brewster for a fee of €22m who looked like a gamble straight away.

A swap deal was completed for Oliver Burke which included Callum Robinson going the other way round. A double deal was struck with Derby County for Jayden Bogle and Max Lowe for a combined fee of €7m which were needless signings to say nonetheless.

Wales International Ethan Ampadu was brought in from Chelsea on loan to add depth and some steel to the Blades Defence and Midfield; and truth be told looks like the only impactful signing so far.

Last but not the least; Aaron Ramsdale was bought for €17m to fill-in a huge gap left in between the sticks by former loanee Dean Henderson. Ramsdale is yet to justify his price tag as the men from Bramall Lane keep shipping goals.

 

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Wilder told BT Sport just before the Leicester game that “Our recruitment is tailored to the way we play, we don’t switch formations constantly, our system relies on the players playing and showing a degree of consistency in terms of team selection, and we’ve missed some key players.”
Although, truth be told, any of the aforementioned signings have yet to set Bramall Lane alight.

A LETHAL GOAL SCORER

Coming back to their record signing, 20 year old Rhian Brewster was never expected to start firing on all cylinders for the Blades straight away. Wilder knew he would take time to settle yet still, blew a major chunk of his transfer budget on this unproven kid.

This is not to say that Brewster has no potential, infact he could potentially end up being a regular 20 goal-a-season striker. But potential is not what Chris Wilder needs right now and he should have known that better than anyone else.

Last season, the Blades conceded just 39 goals from their 38 matches and that is the least so far any newly promoted team had conceded in the Premier League.

Wilder knew scoring goals would come at a premium, so he laid the foundation for a rock-solid backline which took some of the pressure from the Centre-Forwards.

Lys Mousset made his long awaited return from injury against the Baggies at the Hawthorns but Wilder said the Striker is not yet ready to start a game, with Oli McBurnie the latest Centre-Forward casualty on the treatment table.

To highlight their issues upfront, the Blades have scored just 7 goals in 13 matches with David McGoldrick their highest scorer with 4 goals (2 of which came against Man United), with McBurnie, Sander Berge and Billy Sharp with 1 goal apiece.

LACK OF OPEN PLAY GOALS AND A NO.10

Another worrying stat for Chris Wilder is that his team have become heavily reliant on goals from set-pieces. Only 2 of their 7 goals have come from open play this season, with 3 of them coming from set-pieces and 2 from the penalty spot.

This is in contrast to their goal-scoring record from last season, where 29 of their 39 goals came from open play and only 6 goals were scored set-pieces, while only 1 goal came from the penalty spot.

One solution to this lack of open play goals would be deploying an out-an-out No.10 behind the 2 Strikers to add some much needed creativity. Last season Wing-Back duo Enda Stevens and George Baldock were their chief creators with 7 assists combined.

This season, with Stevens injured all the pressure has shifted to Baldock to keep creating chances and that has clearly taken a toll on him. It is the quality of last season that has been lacking, most starkly from wide areas.

Chris Wilder sacrificed a No.10 and deployed a flat midfield three last season to ward off any counter attacks but with the attacks struggling with ideas, the issue of creativity will keep haunting the Blades.

DEAN HENDERSON’S REPLACEMENT

Bringing in a goalkeeper from a relegated club, who by the way shipped tons of goals themselves the previous season, tells you everything that is going wrong on the transfer business front.
Aaron Ramsdale was bought in to replace the departing loanee Dean Henderson.

 

Dean Henderson registered himself as a fan favourite during his time at Bramall Lane and Chris Wilder with his coaching, worked wonders on the 23 year old. Even Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised and thanked Wilder for his hand in the development of Henderson.

Aaron Ramsdale has not been helped with a shaky defence in front of him, especially in the absence of Jack O’Connell and has been exposed more than one can imagine.

INJURIES

Injuries have been cruel to most of the teams this season due to the piled up fixture list, but no one has been as affected by injuries as Chris Wilder’s men have.

Jack O’Connell who arguably was their best Centre-back last season looks like being out for the rest of the season with the serious knee injury he suffered in September, while midfielder John Fleck and striker Lys Mousset have also recently returned from their respective injuries.

 

Speaking to BT Sport, “There would be no downside to us having a fully-fit squad and a settled squad, especially the way we play – it’s not just been chucked together,” said Wilder.

“We need everyone fit, it’s as simple as that. I think we’ve been really unfortunate in terms of injuries this season, all of them have been contact injuries: Fleck was, O’Connell was and Mousset was, it was a tackle.

“The injuries have been unfortunate, not down to conditioning or the way we work. But our success last season was down to consistency and continuity, especially in the back eight, and giving us a platform to have consistent performances and on the back of that results.

“We haven’t had that this season but we will get on with it, as we have been doing.”
With the squad depth as little as Sheffield United have, the task ahead for Chris Wilder won’t be getting easier for him and his boys, especially with the festive period already knocking on the door.

WHAT NEXT FOR CHRIS WILDER?

No club has ever survived the drop with just 1 point after this stage of the season and Chris Wilder said that keeping his boyhood club up would mean everything to him.

 

While talking to BT Sport, Wilder said, “It’d (survival) top anything the club has done for a long, long time.

“The club has had three years in the Premier League in 28-29 years, before we got promoted. Sometimes some clarity is needed about where we are at and what this club is fighting for.

“It’s all relative, as always, and there is a long way to go, but yes, it would be a big achievement for myself and this football club.”

Recently, Sheffield United owner Prince Abdullah praised Chris Wilder and gave him his vote of confidence saying that, “He is the best manager to take us out of the current situation.

“If he wasn’t the manager of the team, I would hire him now and if worst comes to the worst and we are relegated, I believe he is the manager to take us back quickly. It’s a long season but we will stick with Chris no matter what.’

To which Wilder replied, I’ve got to respect – and we all have to respect – that the owners have that right to make that decision,”.

“I don’t think I am going to agree with him (Prince Abdullah). I’m not precious enough and not arrogant enough to know that the results from us all so far at this football club have not been good enough and I have to take full responsibility for that.”

A long and tough season lies ahead for Chris Wilder and his men and the real test starts now for the Blades. Just like Oliver Norwood said on social media, “Tough times don’t last, Tough people do”

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