Sheffield United need pace but there was an even bigger reason why they lost to Wolves

Yes, there will be the usual social media debate about team selection and the need to bring a clinical finisher, preferably capable of giving an Olympic sprinter a run for their money, to Bramall Lane before the transfer window closes at the beginning of next month.

By James Shield
Monday, 14th September 2020, 8:33 pm

But even though Sheffield United’s performance during the first-half of their game against Wolverhampton Wanderers revealed why Chris Wilder is investing so much time, energy and effort into his pursuit of Liverpool’s Rhian Brewster, a lack of pace was not the most important contributory factor behind this defeat.

Instead, after conceding twice inside the opening six minutes of the contest, defensive positioning and the importance of good decision making will form the basis of the manager’s inquest into a match which saw Raul Jiminez and Romain Saiss shatter United’s hopes of beginning the new Premier League season with a win.

Despite proving a much more formidable proposition after the break, with John Fleck striking the foot of the post, Billy Sharp going close and Oli McBurnie seeing an effort scrambled off the line during the closing stages, the seeds of United’s demise were effectively sowed before they even had a chance to break sweat.

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Jack O'Connell of Sheffield Utd reacts at the final whistle during the Premier League match agaisnt Wolves at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Jiminez showcased the quality which has attracted admiring glances from some of Europe’s leading clubs when he caressed the ball beyond Aaron Ramsdale - the only one of United’s summer signings to feature during the entire contest - following Daniel Podence’s pass. But ease with which the Mexican created the space to fire home, and John Lundstram’s attempt to tackle rather than track Podence as he launched a rapid counter attack, will be a source of huge frustration to Wilder.

Likewise the sight of Saiss, who later saw Ramsdale palm another effort onto the upright, heading home effectively unmarked from a Podence corner after the United goalkeeper had produced a fine save to deny the Portuguese.

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Organised, well drilled and choreographed, Wolves proved almost impossible to break down until after the interval, when a change of shape helped United build momentum.

However, although the hosts’ spirit could not be faulted during the second period, their attention to detail and choice of final pass could. Too many times, United failed to beat the first man when crossing into the box or chose the wrong option - Enda Stevens’ preference for taking a shot rather than squaring for Lundstram, Sharp or McBurnie immediately after the restart being a case in point.

Wolves, whose decision to deploy Adama Traore at wing-back, allowing the Spaniard to exploit his hulking power and speed, were impressive. But United, after making such a slow start, were responsible for giving them a helping hand.

Sheffield United: Ramsdale, Basham (McGoldrick 71), Egan, O’Connell, Stevens, Baldock, Norwood (Berge 76), Fleck, Lundstram, McBurnie, Sharp. Not used: Foderingham, Burke, Jagielka, Ampadu, Osborn.

Wolverhampton Wanderers: Patricio, Marcal, Neto (Buur 69), Juminez, Podence (Neves 76), Boly, Coady, Saiss, Moutinho (Ferreira 86), Dendoncker, Traore. Not used: Ruddy, Silva, Jota, Vinagre.

Referee: Mike Dean (The Wirral).

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