Alan Biggs' Sheffield United column: Chris Wilder and the Billy Sharp conundrum
Should Billy Sharp start for Sheffield United against Arsenal on Monday?Should he have started in the Premier League before now?
Only a complete fool would claim they could make a better job of picking a Blades team than the man who does
That’s for starters. Respectful opinions are something else and football is full of them as part of the charm.
Providing we also accept that managers, of whichever team, are better placed, certainly better qualified than we are.
And nobody is more entitled to trust than Chris Wilder, who has followed up two promotions with an assured start in the Premier League on a budget that suggested very little of this should have been possible.
Indeed, it’s doubtful whether United could have played better, or exceeded their nine points from eight games even if Sharp had started in any of the first five or, following his return from suspension, the 0-0 draw at Watford.
But maybe now the time has come to find out whether Billy can help provide what Wilder often calls “that last little bit.”
When it comes to those lesser qualified opinions, well, this column must admit it would have unleashed him earlier.
But it wouldn’t have had the outstanding John Lundstram in from the first game, so none of this carries much weight.
It should also be pointed out that, outside of the Southampton game, United haven’t been markedly profligate in front of goal.
If we’re nitpicking about a good start in the Premier League, it is situations they have wasted rather than clear chances.
There is a need to be more creative, clinical and ruthless around the opposition area.
The strikers in the main have not been found wanting.
There is pace, aggression and trickery from Callum Robinson and Lys Mousset; Oli McBurnie is a physical threat who needs that final delivery; David McGoldrick is an excellent technician, albeit that, yes, he was wasteful in that Saints game.
That day, too, Sharp made a big second half impression from the bench, a huge bustling menace before an ill-judged challenge saw him sent off.
Now back, you wonder if this Blades talisman, prolific at all other levels and scorer of a precious Premier League goal on the opening day, can be the man to find that pocket of space to provide the killer option.
Sharp’s play, both last season and fleetingly this, suggests that, even at 33, he contributes to the team whether he scores or not.
And there is only one way to find out whether that “last bit” remains within his compass.
Actually, that’s probably a silly statement.
Once a goal scorer, always a natural at the art.
This one never doubts that, neither does his manager.
It’s probably more a question of balance on the make up of the side.
And rotating strikers to best effect – which again seems to bring Billy much closer to the equation.