Sheffield United could be set for a major boost ahead of their FA Cup quarter-final against Arsenal
Jack O’Connell is “desperate” to help Sheffield United arrest their slump in form, manager Chris Wilder has admitted, after insisting the defender could face Arsenal in the FA Cup this weekend.
Despite missing the first three Premier League games of ‘Project Restart’ and contrary to reports he is set to miss the rest of the season after injuring himself during a training ground collision with goalkeeper Dean Henderson, Wilder revealed O’Connell has a chance of being declared fit ahead of Sunday’s quarter-final tie at Bramall Lane after making “steady” progress over the last 24 hours.
Confirming both centre-forward Lys Mousset and midfielder Oliver Norwood are also expected to be available for selection against Mikel Arteta’s side after failing to reappear for the second-half of Wednesday’s defeat by Manchester United, Wilder said: “There’s just the one (player) we have to assess, with Jack.
“He’s improving by the day so we’ll assess him over the next 24 or 48 hours. As you know, the mentality of the boy is that he’s desperate to get back out there and pay his part, which he’s done very well since he’s been at the football club.”
Although O’Connell’s return would be a major boost for a United team which has drawn one and lost two of its outings since returning to competition earlier this month, Wilder declared the performances of his replacement - former Nottingham Forest centre-half Jack Robinson - as a rare positive the newly promoted club can take from their displays at Aston Villa, Newcastle and Old Trafford.
After being forced to settle for a controversial draw at Villa Park, when both Hawkeye and the VAR official failed to intervene when a Norwood free-kick was carried across the line by goalkeeper Orjan Nyland, United were beaten 3-0 at St James’ Park before succumbing by the same margin in the North-West.
“’ve got to say, I think Jack Robinson has been superb, very, very good, and one of the plus points that have come out of these last three games for us,” Wilder added. “It’s very encouraging that Jack could be involved though. We’ve had a settled back five right the way through until now.”
Mousset, who damaged an ankle against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, is expected to train over the weekend while Norwood’s withdrawal during the meeting with his former employers was a tactical move in response to seeing Anthony Martial score the second goal of what was to prove his maiden career hat-trick just before half-time.
"We’re looking for that spark," Wilder, whose men remain eighth in the table - a place and a point above Arsenal - said. "We were well beaten (at Manchester United) and could have no complaints. They were outstanding but, as I’ve always said, you look at yourselves first and our performance level was not good enough to get something out of any game."
"That's something we're working hard to rectify, we're looking at everything. But I really don't think, knowing these boys, that we're too far away."