Alan Biggs: Sheffield United need to quickly find a reason to invest in squad
At last a kinder run of games for Sheffield United and yet a marked increase in pressure.
It’s a pressure not just to climb from the bottom of the Premier League but to create a position that makes it worthwhile to invest in some proven top flight quality in January.
That is the race within a race that manager Chris Wilder will be anxious to win; to be in a competitive enough position to persuade the board that the transfer window can help save the club’s lucrative status.
Being adrift would negate the argument besides turning off the appeal for targets.
Of the next nine games going into 2021, six are what could be described as “winnable.”
Which is a bit vague because, in reality, all could be winnable - and “losable.”
But perhaps the most accurate guide of expectation to a points yield is to reflect on last season.
Of these nine upcoming games, all, apart from newly promoted West Brom, are against sides Wilder’s men have met relatively recently.
From these eight, United harvested 22 points from 16 games, home and away, in the last campaign.
Halve that to 11 points and such a haul might be about realistic. Throw in a hoped for win at The Hawthorns and the Blades would be on 15 points for the season. Not ideal but still opening an escape route with a long way to go.
All this is purely academic and I know Wilder doesn’t do targets in blocks. He doesn’t do so-called “free hits” either, wanting United to be competitive in every game.
But there is no mistaking a crucial period after the international break. It needs to bring enough points for the club to act as required in the January window.
The opposition - while including Manchester United, Leicester and Everton - features West Ham, Southampton, Brighton, Burnley and Crystal Palace.
None easy but there are games in there United have to win to stand a reasonable chance of staying up.
That first win can’t come soon enough for confidence, too. Hopefully there will be a more measurable impact from last summer’s biggest buys, goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale and striker Rhian Brewster, who have both had difficult starts.
You can see in Ramsdale that he has the character to cope. As for Brewster, who is actually surprised that he has not hit the ground running in the kind of fixtures that greeted him?
Brewster is an investment project, in the Premier League for the first time. He was signed because Wilder could not afford the likes of Callum Wilson, Josh King and Ollie Watkins.
There will be an opportunity in January for that to change - in the case of David Brooks, for instance? And it may have to if United are to stay up.
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Chris Holt, Football Editor