Sheffield United are told what their top priority must be during FA Cup clash with Arsenal - and it isn't reaching Wembley
“Producing a performance”, not reaching the last four of the FA Cup, should be Sheffield United’s priority when they meet Arsenal in the quarter-finals tomorrow.
Manager Chris Wilder made the admission as his team, which is preparing to stage its first game at Bramall Lane for over three months, attempts to arrest a disappointing slump in form since returning to action following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although results are a concern - after drawing with Aston Villa 10 days ago, United have lost 3-0 to both Newcastle and Manchester United - Wilder is more frustrated by the manner in which his players have succumbed; challenging them to “give their heads a shake” following the trip to St James’ Park.
Asked if the prospect of securing a trip to Wembley would spur United into action, Wilder responded: “Wembley? It’s significant because it’s a chance to win a football match - that’s the way I’m looking at it. I would expect a reaction and, knowing these boys as I do, I’m sure I’m going to see one.
“They have to dig deeper and give a little bit more. And it wouldn't surprise me if theft did that on Sunday.
“That goes to show how highly I think of my players. Because they are trying. It might not look like it to some, but the numbers show that they are. Believe me.”
Wilder struck a markedly more conciliatory tone when he assessed United’s recent displays with the media yesterday. Hugely critical of their showings in both the North-East and the North-West, he revealed coaching staff had cancelled two pre-arranged training sessions after admitting United looked tired, both mentally and physically, at Old Trafford.
“I know people are talking about getting through to an FA Cup semi-final, but the performance levels have to be the priority,” Wilder said. “I’m sure Mikel (Arteta, the Arsenal manager) will recognise that, if we produce our top performance, we will be tough opponents.”
"I have to try and affect it," Wilder added. "I have to find out and get the answers. Maybe sometimes I look too deep. Maybe I should just think we aren’t in form."