Where Sheffield United may look to strengthen or sacrifice this January

The silly season that is the January transfer window is here once again, and Sheffield United fans will be getting excited about the business their club may do now the market is once again open for business.

Thursday, 6th January 2022, 11:58 am

Boss Paul Heckingbottom has already suggested that the January window may be more about getting players out of Bramall Lane than bringing them in, but he will also hope for some fresh blood to freshen up the squad he inherited from previous boss Slavisa Jokanovic.

Here, our man Danny Hall assesses the state of play with the Blades' squad, the areas they are vulnerable and who may be sacrificed in January.

Goalkeepers

Wes Foderingham has performed admirably since getting his chance in the absence of Robin Olsen, so much so that many fans would be fine with the on-loan goalkeeper returning to Roma early and Foderingham being handed the gloves full-time.

Heckingbottom says that's not in his thinking, because he wants as many quality goalkeepers at his disposal as possible.

But it's stating the obvious to say that only one man can play at one time and United are well stocked here. As well as Olsen and Foderingham, the Blades also have Michael Verrips and Jake Eastwood, who seems to have been around at Bramall Lane forever.

Sheffield United fans hope their chief executive Stephen Bettis and manager Paul Heckingbottom are set for a busy January transfer window: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Now 25, Eastwood has just over 30 senior games on his CV and probably needs to get away to increase that number.

Few tears would probably be shed if Verrips left, either - which would create a pathway for highly-rated youngsters Marcus Dewhurst or Jordan Amissah to the first team squad.

Defenders

An area United look vulnerable, in the centre at least. With George Baldock, Jayden Bogle, Enda Stevens and Rhys Norrington-Davies, plus the versatility of Chris Basham and Ben Osborn, United have no need to look for wing-backs but have only Jack Robinson as cover for their first-choice centre halves, Basham, John Egan and Ben Davies.

There is no suggestion that Liverpool will recall Davies early from his loan, but an injury or suspension there would leave United very short.

Heckingbottom has unsurprisingly placed another centre-half at the top of his January wishlist, with Fleetwood Town’s James Hill thought to have been a target before he joined Bournemouth and Kacper Lopata another option.

The youngster is currently out on loan at Southend but can be recalled at any time under the terms of his youth loan.

Midfield

United are relatively well-stocked in the centre of the park. John Fleck made his return at Fulham, while Conor Hourihane has done a job there after stepping in for the Scottish international.

Ben Osborn, Sander Berge and Ollie Norwood complete United's options for the two 'sitting' midfield roles, while Adlène Guedioura is stepping up his recovery from injury and Luke Freeman, almost the forgotten man at United, is available again after injury.

One of United's biggest January tasks may be keeping hold of Morgan Gibbs-White, as talk of him being recalled by Wolves continues, while it would be interesting to see the outcome if United receive an offer for Berge this window.

Previously United's record signing, Berge has undoubted quality but is recovering from injury.

Fully fit and firing, he could be a big asset for United in the second half of the season. But he is also one of their most saleable assets, albeit probably not with a current market value anywhere near the £22m United paid for him.

If any offer arrives in January, it will be a big test of the United hierarchy's ambitions as they consider whether to stick or twist.

Forwards

No issues here in terms of recruitment and probably the area Heckingbottom will focus on in terms of outgoings.

With six senior strikers, plus Iliman Ndiaye, United are top heavy and Oli Burke stands out as one player that could probably be sacrificed to free up a space on Heckingbottom's roster.

Probably a more natural winger than striker, Burke's pace and power make him a great asset but he is not clinical enough as a finisher and is of interest to Blackburn Rovers.

Question marks remain about Lys Mousset, too, while Oli McBurnie has struggled to nail down a place in a season disrupted by Covid-19 isolation.

Billy Sharp and David McGoldrick are leading the way but at 35 and 34 years old respectively, can't go on forever. There was talk of Rhian Brewster leaving on loan in January, but he scored twice in three games before damaging his hamstring against Bristol City and is a player that Heckingbottom can look to build a team around as he plans for the future.

Youngsters

Daniel Jebbison, Lopata and Brunt have all caught the eye out on loan, with Jebbison winning the November PFA fans' player of the month award after a string of impressive displays out on loan.

Having all played under Heckingbottom for the U23s - the former Barnsley and Leeds chief introduced Jebbison in the Premier League last season - there was inevitable speculation that they may be recalled in January before Brunt moved to Notts County and Lopata’s stay at Southend was extended.

Certainly in Jebbison's case, it makes little sense to bring him back and watch from the bench or stands while other strikers are ahead of him in the pecking order.

All three could be mainstays of the Blades side for years to come, if they continue to progress as United coaches expect – with United benefitting in the long run when they eventually do return to Bramall Lane.