Sheffield United: Why The Blades are prepared to be patient with Lys Mousset
Usually it would set alarm bells ringing when, three months into the season, a manager admits a player who has made 10 or more appearances is still striving for peak fitness.
Concerns about their commitment could expect to be voiced in public, accompanied by grumblings of discontent and other expressions of frustration from supporters, colleagues and coaching staff alike.
But Chris Wilder insists Lys Mousset's situation is different. Indeed, speaking ahead of Saturday's Premier League fixture against Tottenham Hotspur, the man responsible for overseeing Sheffield United's climb to sixth in the table has sought to clarify why his centre-forward is yet to fulfil his true potential.
"Sometimes, it's about different bodies and different dynamics in terms of what you're like," Wilder replied, when asked why Mousset has yet to become a near permanent starter despite a series of impressive performances. "It's not an attitude thing, because he's done everything he can. It's all about work on the training ground, just general conditioning, because he's got something that can hurt defenders. And we want him to be explosive so, if it takes a little more work, then great. Because that's what we want him to be."
Aged 23, Mousset has been one of the stories of the campaign so far at Bramall Lane; scoring three times, including the match-winning goal against Arsenal last month, since leaving AFC Bournmouth in July. But the French centre-forward's progress at the club has been arguably been stalled by concerns about his conditioning. It explains why, after putting Arsenal to the sword, he began United's next fixture at West Ham on the bench.
Although Wilder has attempted to pretend otherwise, initially attributing Mousset's situation to the protracted nature of his move, there is little doubt United feel he must take some personal responsibility for arriving in less than perfect shape. Indeed, Wilder made an oblique reference to this following September's win over Everton, when Mousset claimed the second of a 2-0 win. Designed to ensure the striker remained grounded and focused in the face of huge public acclaim, it is a tactic Wilder has employed to good effect in the past with the likes of Callum Robinson and Dean Henderson.
Speaking after Mousset netted the equaliser at West Ham - seven days before last weekend's win over Burnley - Wilder explained he felt the former Le Havre marksman was still unable to complete 90 minutes effectively. But, underlining why United remain delighted by his recent contributions, he predicted patience will prove a virtue as the season unfolds.
"He's got attributes that no one else here has got," Wilder said. "Lunny (John Lundstram) for instance can probably run around a pitch all day. But Lys, when he makes runs, he really puts people on the back foot."