Alan Biggs' Sheffield United Column: Core strength of Chris Wilder's Blades squad can't be underestimated despite successive home defeats
Dipping out against the big teams - and the ever-present need not to dip on overall performance levels. Two major topics on Sheffield United, with an obvious common thread.
Chris Wilder is clearly wondering how much more he can get out of this group of players and how much he should actually demand.
In neither case is any criticism of individual players or the squad as a whole intended. These remain the best of times at Bramall Lane.
It wasn't so much losing 2-1 to West Brom last Friday - on the face of it, a respectably narrow defeat - that brought these questions to the fore as the manner of it.
Unusually, the Blades just weren't at the races in the second half - after a breakneck start that, rather more typically, should have been rewarded by more than one goal.
This followed a close home loss to Leeds, raising question marks about the side's ability to win top-of-the-table tussles.
In fairness, United HAVE beaten surprise leaders Norwich and fast-reviving Aston Villa this season.
Against that, draws in derbies with two lowly rivals, Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham, have suggested that other reality - about Wilder's side needing to be at or near the top of their game to win any match at this level.
In that context, to still be in the top six remains a terrific effort. Can it be sustained? We shall see. Certainly January recruitment will have a crucial bearing.
But Wilder usually knows which buttons to press to gain the right response and the home truths exchanged in the dressing room post West Brom - probably on similar lines to the above - will be accepted by everyone in there.
That's the core of strength at the heart of this squad that can't be under-estimated.
It almost matters not what the opposition will be over the festive period. Ipswich and Wigan away, either side of Derby and Blackburn at home, are lose-able games just as they are winnable games.
That's the nature of the Championship and generally of a team punching well above its budget.
What United should have, and deserve, is total understanding and backing from the supporters.
Allowing for the marked drop-off against West Brom, it was disappointing to see so many supporters leave before the final whistle.
That is a rare sight indeed. Team and fans need to re-establish that special connection for when the going gets really tough. And it isn't now.