Sheffield United: Four talking points after narrow Barnsley win, from Lys Mousset to relegation scars

Among the many oft-heard and overused clichés in the language of football is how a club ‘never does things easily’, a phrase which feels particularly pertinent when talking about Sheffield United.

Monday, 25th October 2021, 3:42 pm

Sunday’s derby win over Barnsley was a good case in point.

The Blades earned themselves three valuable points at the expense of their struggling South Yorkshire rivals at Oakwell, yet the manner of the win left little room for celebration.

A blistering and ruthless 25-minute spell in the second-half had put them 3-0 up and in total control.

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Lys Mousset of Sheffield United celebrates with team mate Ben Osborn after scoring his second goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Barnsley and Sheffield United at Oakwell Stadium on October 24, 2021 in Barnsley, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

Given the quality in the squad and the club’s stated ambition of automatic promotion, that was the level of performance expected against a below-par team who had lost their last five.

Manager Slavisa Jokanovic wanted more of the same, despite the scoreline.

“I’m the type of coach if you win 3-0 I prefer try and score a fourth or fifth,” he told the press after full-time.

Instead he was forced to bring on an additional defender to shore things up at the back after Barnsley were gifted an undeserved opportunity to salvage something from the match.

Defensive frailties

The ruthlessness Sheffield United displayed in attack was certainly not replicated in defence.

No team in the Championship had scored fewer goals than Barnsley before yesterday – and that was only the second time they have scored more than once in a game this season.

Despite a wealth of Premier League experience between them and international caps, United’s defenders have kept just three clean sheets in 14 attempts.

The Blades are shipping 1.5 goals on average every game.

Relegation scars

Almost certainly linked to the above, the hangover of last season is still yet to clear with several players way off the levels they are capable of playing at and question marks hanging over the team’s mental resolve.

Jokanovic addressed this problem after the match.

He said: “When they score first goal I have sensation my team start thinking ‘wow, we have already lost, they will score two more or three more’.

"At this kind of moment you need to be calm and try to finish the game in better shape.

"It’s not the first time today [...] if you don’t improve this kind of the game it’s really expensive and really costly for us.”

It’s no surprise those players who have impressed the most this season are the ones who weren’t at the club or regularly involved last term.

Lys Mousset

One of the many frustrations around Sheffield United’s strikeforce is that it ought to be the envy of the league, yet goals continue to be in short supply.

But Lys Mousset now has three goals in his last two appearances and you wouldn’t have bet against him scoring a hat-trick had a calf complaint not prompted his precautionary early substitution.

Teams can’t mount a promotion push without regular goals.

Jokanovic benefitted from three players reaching double figures in his last two Championship promotions with Watford and Fulham respectively, and if Frenchman Mousset can stay fit he can be one of those contributors for Sheffield United.

There were also flashes of a potentially fruitful partnership with his countryman Iliman Ndiaye after the pair linked up well on several occasions.

The though of Morgan Gibbs-White alongside them is an exciting proposition.

Ben Osborn

A very productive afternoon for the midfielder, who assisted two goals for Mousset and helped himself to another.

Jokanovic acknowledged his industrious display after the match.

"Ben Osborn always is good worker,” he said.

"Both goals were assists from his side. He did a good job with and without the ball.”