Sheffield United: Why Chris Wilder's reaction to victory over Arsenal provides a clue about his plans for West Ham

Chris Wilder looked exhausted. An hour after watching his team beat Arsenal, the Sheffield United manager also sounded absolutely drained.

Thursday, 24th October 2019, 1:41 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th October 2019, 11:44 pm
Sheffield United's Lys Mousset celebrates his goal of with manager Chris Wilder: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.

It was a reminder, as the home supporters continued to celebrate long into the night, of the emotional investment managers make in their teams. The psychological, never mind the physical toll, Premier League football can take upon those tasked with accumulating points in the country's elite division.

It is for that reason, as United finalised their preparations for this weekend's visit to West Ham, why Wilder refused to rule-out making changes. His squad finished Monday's match without any fresh injuries. But mentally, they were fatigued.

"There's no injuries," Wilder said, ahead of United's first training session since overcoming their rivals from London. "We came through a tough game. Obviously we look at the physical and the mental side. There was a lot of tired minds and tired bodies afterwards. But after a couple of days off, it was back in and everyone is okay.

"We could stick with the same but that's why we assembled a squad, to change it around if we have to. Sometimes, it's the hardest thing in the world to change a winning side. But sometimes it's the right thing to do."

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One of those who could make way, despite excelling against Unai Emery's side, is centre-forward Lys Mousset. The Frenchman celebrated his first league start under Wilder by scoring the only goal of the game midway through the first-half but was later withdrawn, presumably due to tiredness, after the interval. Having expressed concerns about Mousset's fitness levels when he first arrived in South Yorkshire during the close season, United's coaching staff could choose to name him on the bench against West Ham. Particularly given Wilder's admission that Billy Sharp, the most prolific marksman in England this century, can count himself unfortunate not to have enjoyed more opportunities.

"Every manager will talk about it, keeping players who aren't playing interested and happy," Wilder acknowledged. "Because the ones who are, they take care of themselves."

Those who have followed United's journey under Wilder - rising from League One to the top-flight in only three seasons - will suspect tiredness was not the only reason for his slightly downbeat demeanor following the win over Arsenal. After positive results - of which there have been plenty since his appointment in 2016 - Wilder invariably chooses to act as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened. Set-backs, by contrast, quite often provoke a more positive response. It is his way, one suspects, of guarding against complacency. Of ensuring those under his command remain switched-on and focused.

With Manuel Pellegrini choosing to reprimand his team following their defeat by Everton, Wilder expects West Ham will pose a stern test of United's credentials on Saturday afternoon. Despite entering the contest without a win in four, the Londoners beat Manchester United at the London Stadium last month and spent £45m on a striker - Sébastien Haller - during the close season. Previously of Eintracht Frankfurt, FC Utrecht and Auxerre, Haller has scored four times in nine appearances this term.

United travel south ranked ninth and unbeaten away from home since January; a record Wilder attributes in part to bold selections. West Ham, who could recall midfielder Jack Wilshire, are 11th.

"That changing room on Monday night was not just filled with players who had been on the pitch, but also players who were disappointed not to get on," Wilder said. "They accept that. But we are nine games into a 38 game season. There's a lot of football to be played. If we have to make changes, we'll be brave, and we will do."