Sheffield United are told what they must do to reignite their Premier League season
Cutting out individual errors holds the key to reigniting their Premier League season, Sheffield United have been told, ahead of Tottenham Hotspur’s visit to Bramall Lane.
Chris Wilder’s side enters Thursday’s match having drawn one and lost three of its four outings in all competitions since ‘Project Restart’ was implemented earlier this month, scoring one goal and conceding eight in the process.
Given that United’s defence had only been breached eight times in 11 matches before English football was suspended in March because of the Covid-19 pandemic - and acknowledging that his squad lacks the proven top-flight firepower at his counterpart Jose Mourinho’s disposal - Wilder views rediscovering the attention to detail they displayed during the first seven months of the season as the solution to United’s recent problems.
“It is frustrating to see errors, because it’s uncharacteristic,” he said. “So it’s not frustrating just for supporters and me, it’s frustrating for the players. You get punished in the Premier League. It’s not like the Championship or League One, where you usually get away with it.”
Despite describing his team’s display during Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final defeat by Arsenal as a “step in the right direction”, Wilder was again left lamenting United’s generosity during the build-up to Dani Ceballos’ winner in added time. Indeed, assessing their stalemate with Aston Villa and losses to Newcastle and Manchester United, Wilder cited Anthony Martial’s third during last week’s 3-0 reverse at Old Trafford as the “only” time an opponent had been made to work for a strike.
“We need to up our quality in the final third,” Wilder acknowledged. “I can only recollect the third goal Manchester United scored as being a really good goal, where we’ve been cut apart. It wasn’t one of our best performances in terms of quality but it was a good reaction, when Arsenal came here, and hopefully we can take another step forward.”
Although losing Jack O’Connell to injury has been a blow - as well as being integral to their 3-5-2 system, the centre-half was arguably United’s most consistent performer before lockdown - Wilder has been impressed by the contribution his replacement Jack Robinson has been made after being drafted into the starting eleven.
Signed from Nottingham Forest in January, Wilder insisted the former Liverpool full-back’s displays mean United do not have to take a high-risk gamble on O’Connell’s fitness. The 26-year-old, who is being touted as a future England international, could resume training this week after injuring himself during an accidental collision at the Steelphalt Academy.
“You look at our group and the defensive record and our results are built on that,” Wilder said. “There’s been changes to that so far this season but it’s something we can’t moan and groan about.
“Jack Robinson has been our best player over the course of the last three games. He’ll put pressure on Jack when he’s fit.
“The goals we’ve conceded haven't been because we’ve been all over the place, they have been because of individual errors. The Arsenal goal, their winner, I counted five mistakes in there.”