Sheffield United: The smoke and mirrors surrounding The Blades' plans for Arsenal
John Fleck, David McGoldrick and record signing Oli McBurnie must complete a tailor-made training session before being considered for selection, manager Chris Wilder has revealed, after shedding light on how Sheffield United's medical staff decide when injured players should be exposed to the rigors of Premier League football.
Despite admitting it would be a major boost if the trio are declared fit for Monday's game against Arsenal - "They're very important to us" - Wilder identified the process all three must go through before a decision regarding their involvement is taken. It involves emerging unscathed from a "clearance session", designed to test both their physical and mental suitability, together with a series of other tailor-made challenges.
"We can't take risks on them," the United manager said. "We can't gamble with them, that's not fair on players.
"They have to complete a clearance session. Some of the boys have had some time off, but the injured players have been in."
McGoldrick spent last week working at the Steelphalt Academy after being forced to withdraw from the Republic of Ireland squad which faced Georgia and Switzerland with a groin problem. John Fleck returned to South Yorkshire midway through the international break after making his Scotland debut in Russia while McBurnie failed to travel to Moscow, despite reporting for duty with Steve Clarke's side.
Although Wilder is bound to have some idea about their odds of recovering in time, he refused to shed light on those today; insisting instead it is still too early to predict if Fleck, McGoldrick and McBurnie will face Unai Emery's side. It was a trick designed to keep the Spaniard guessing about the tactics United plan to employ at Bramall Lane, given their likely replacements will alter the dynamic of Wilder's strategy. Luke Freeman, who deputised for Fleck earlier this term, is arguably a more subtle player than his midfield team mate for example. McGoldrick, meanwhile, is the most creative member of United's attack. If not, on the evidence of the season so far, its most clinical finisher.
"We'll give John and Oli, who had an issue with his knee, every opportunity to be available," Wilder continued. "David too. They are important players. Every day changes the situation."
Mo Besic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, England's Dean Henderson, together with John Egan, Callum Robinson and Enda Stevens, who have been on duty with the Republic of Ireland, completed United's international contingent.
"The early reports are that they're all okay," Wilder said, acknowledging United have been in contact with the relevant national associations. "Obviously we're hoping those are correct."