Sheffield United: Why one Blades star insists his team mates will only get better

Sixth in the Premier League table and unbeaten in four games, Sheffield United are already being described as one of the stories of the season with 27 matches left to play.

Tuesday, 5th November 2019, 5:58 pm
Sunderland's Chris Maguire (left) and Sheffield United's Ben Osborn (right): Nigel French/PA Wire
Sunderland's Chris Maguire (left) and Sheffield United's Ben Osborn (right): Nigel French/PA Wire

But one of those responsible for helping them make such an impressive start to the campaign believes, with absolute certainty, that Chris Wilder's side can get even better. Indeed, as they prepare for Saturday's visit to Tottenham Hotspur, he insists they are still someway off reaching their full potential.

Reflecting upon last weekend's win over Burnley and looking ahead to their outing in London, Oliver Norwood cited a major recruitment drive during the recent transfer window as a factor behind his claim.

"When you first come here, you don't realise the demands," the former Northern Ireland international said. "The lads who came in are starting to find their feet now and it does always take time to bed into a new club. That's why I think there's more to come from us. Because, when you consider that, the way we play is quite difficult and unique."

Immediately installed as the main conduit in United's midfield, Norwood had no problems adjusting to the challenges of his new team's 3-5-2 system after leaving Brighton and Hove Albion at the beginning of last season. Wilder's decision, and tactical strategy, meant he was effectively able to dictate both the direction and speed of United's play. However, with coaching staff electing to concentrate on increasing the firepower at their disposal following last term's promotion from the Championship, the likes of Oli McBurnie, Callum Robinson and Luke Freeman have not enjoyed the same luxury. Forced to learn on the job in England's most demanding competition, they must adapt to those around them rather than impose their own will on the team. Only one of those who started the 3-0 win over Burnley - former AFC Bournemouth centre-forward Lys Mousset - joined United before August's deadline.

Despite already accumulating more than half of the points total which usually guarantees survival, Norwood claimed United will travel to the capital intent on overhauling fifth-placed Arsenal. Although Unai Emery's men lost at Bramall Lane earlier this month, beating Spurs on home soil would represent United's most eye-catching result of the season so far.

"There's no off days or days to relax," Norwood said. "We are all quite new to the level. I think we've started well and I think there's more to come from this group. We're not looking at what's behind us. We're trying to catch who is in front. That's the way it is under the gaffer. He likes to keep everyone on their toes."

"Everything is about trying to improve and driving forward," Norwood continued. "That's the mentality there is here and it comes from the top."

Luke Freeman and Oliver Norwood (right): Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Although McBurnie and Freeman in particular have been used only sparingly of late, John Lundstram's rise to prominence confirms it can take time for players to get to grips with the strategy United employ. Despite being an ever-present this term - he scored twice during the 3-0 rout of Sean Dyche's team - the former England international struggled for form and subsequently opportunities as United climbed out of the second tier. With David McGoldrick now fully recovered from injury, both are likely to benefit from his ability to create space for others when they are eventually recalled. It became evident during their goalless draw with Watford - when McBurnie spent the afternoon being marked by two towering cental defenders - how important McGoldrick is to United's cause.

"As things go along, I'm sure we'll continue to grow," Norwood said. "That's the attitude and the aim of everyone here. We're taking nothing for granted."

Oli McBurnie: Simon Bellis/Sportimage