Around the world, football fans can unanimously agree that Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United were the surprise package of the 2019-20 Premier League season. Their attack-minded style saw them achieve a ninth-place finish, just five points away from a European spot. Following their promotion, the Blades’ injected new life into England’s top flight, with their overlapping central defenders taking the league by storm. However, to say it’s gone pear-shaped in 2020-21 would be an understatement. But what’s behind their fall from grace?
On Course for the Worst Points Haul
Prior to the 2019-20 campaign, players, staff, and supporters of Sheffield United would have been dreaming of staying in the Premier League. The fact that they convincingly did so was beyond their wildest dreams. For all of their success upon their return, replicating their form has proved problematic. After picking up just one point in their opening ten matches, Wilder stated that targeting a 17th-place finish was a “realistic” goal.
Since then, the Blades have continued to struggle, picking up just one point in their next seven matches. After losing 3-2 to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United at Bramall Lane on December 17th, 2020, Wilder’s team officially held the record for the worst start to a season in the history of English top-flight football. Because of their recent woes, the South Yorkshire-based outfit are now the favorites to be relegated. According to the football betting, the Blades are 1/25 to go down to the Championship come the end of the campaign, as of January 6th.
Not only has their start gone down in the history books, but at their current rate of picking up points, Wilder’s team will reportedly finish the season with a maximum of six points, according to GiveMeSport. Should this total become a reality, then their tally will be five points lower than Derby’s record-holding return of just 11 points in 2007-08.
Is Player Recruitment and Management to Blame?
In seeking to launch an attack on a European spot last season, the club splashed out around £22 million to sign Sander Berge from Genk in January 2020. At the time, the Norwegian midfielder was the side’s record transfer. However, that title soon went to Rhian Brewster, who signed from Liverpool for £23 million in the following window. Upon recruiting the 20-year-old attacker, the Blades reportedly saw off competition from both Crystal Palace and Leeds. Yet, despite arriving for a record fee, Brewster hasn’t been a regular starter.
Defensively, Sheffield United also haven’t had Dean Henderson’s reliability to call all on in 2020-21. Last season, the on-loan goalkeeper made just one error leading to goals, and that came against Liverpool at Bramall Lane. Following Henderson’s return to Old Trafford, the Blades turned to Aaron Ramsdale and paid relegated Bournemouth around £18.5 million for the Englishman. Thus far, however, he hasn’t fared too well in South Yorkshire, having already made two errors leading to goals.
Something Needs to Change and Fast
Currently, it’s hard to argue that United won’t suffer the lowest points tally in Premier League history based on their current form. In attack, the Blades look toothless, while their defense appears to lack togetherness. Of course, survival isn’t out of the question as anything can happen in football, but they’ve given themselves a mountain to climb.