Following an impressive start to life in the Premier League, many expected Sheffield United to kick on and really establish themselves as a regular in the top flight. Taking like a duck to water, the Blades were almost in contention for European places at the turn of the year but just 12 months later they were at the foot of the table, relegation looking more of an inevitability with each passing game. The Blades slumped down to the second division listlessly, looking fatigued and unmotivated by the time the full-time whistle blew on a rare 1-0 win at home to Burnley on the final day.
Alas, it wasn’t enough — at the expense of manager Chris Wilder. The man who had transformed the Blades and sculpted them in his own image has now passed on the mantle to promotion specialist Slaviša Jokanović but if the South Yorkshire club are to retain their top-flight status as many EFL Championship odds predict, a lot will need to change at Brammall Lane. The next nine months will show if the club are really forged in steel as their motto claims.
Utilise home advantage
In their first season back following a 12-year absence from the Premier League, Sheffield United were a breath of fresh air. Wilder’s unconventional style, personified by his overlapping centre-back system, were cheered relentlessly by the Brammall Lane faithful and their absence was felt drastically as they nose dived in their second season, severely hindered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Without the support of fans, they faltered but with crowds allegedly back to full capacity by their first home game to Birmingham City under the floodlights, Jokanović has an opportunity to make a great first impression and win the home crowd over. The Blades will need to remain consistent with what can be a gruelling campaign and winning as many games at home as possible will only stand them in good stead to go up.
Win against the rest of the top six
If you look at the competitiveness of the Championship you will see why it is regarded as one of the most difficult leagues to get out of across Europe. The league table is littered with sides who once were mainstays in the Premier League but now linger in the second tier battling the Championship relegation odds. To avoid ending up like a Queens Park Rangers or Blackburn Rovers, The Blades simply have to go up and by beating the teams around them they not only hamper their opponents but boost their own chances of an automatic promotion place, and with Jokanović in charge it is a realistic feat.
Even though owner Musaad bin Khalid invested over £50 million in new players last season, they simply lacked the experience to adapt to the intensity and physicality of the Premier League. Rhian Brewster cost a pretty penny despite not scoring a goal in senior football — reputation and potential alone wasn’t enough to keep the Blades survival hopes alive.
However, there certainly is a lot of untapped potential in Brewster and goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale who was a consistent performer throughout the season but couldn’t soften the blow left by Dean Henderson’s departure. Oliver Burke was also underwhelming and the fact that a 36-year-old David McGoldrick finished as top scorer says a lot. Players need to be brought in that have experience in the league, can play twice a week and help nurture the young players whilst also fitting in with the current furniture at Bramall Lane – putting all that together will not be easy.