What Chris Wilder has told the Sheffield United board about next month's transfer window

Midway through their meeting, being staged in the opulently appointed conference room of a Dubai hotel, Chris Wilder reached into his briefcase and presented HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud with a dossier before outlining its contents.

Thursday, 12th December 2019, 5:00 pm

The document, supported by data and historical evidence from Sheffield United’s most recent promotion campaign, was designed to make the case for reinforcements during next month’s transfer window.

“It’s key that we strengthen,” Wilder said, reflecting upon his recent visit to the Middle Eastern emirate. “Where, I’ll keep to myself. It’s important we bring the right players in and the right mentalities. It’s a difficult window to work in.”

More than a month has passed since Wilder, Prince Abdullah and some of the Saudi Arabian’s most trusted advisors sat down around a table to shape United’s recruitment strategy. Despite acknowledging the club’s hierarchy had, together with former co-owner Kevin McCabe, helped him snare most of his targets during the aftermath of last season’s promotion from the Championship, Wilder always suspected the relentless nature of Premier League competition meant further tweaks would be necessary as the campaign unfolded. That belief, with United preparing for Saturday’s contest with Aston Villa ranked eighth in the table, has only strengthened now.

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Tracing his players’ journey out of the second tier, Wilder continued: “Last year, the likes of Scott Hogan and Gary Madine gave us a real boost. I’ve said to the owners: ‘If we’re in a different position, then maybe keep your hand in your pocket.’ But for me, this is the time to strengthen and we’re having conversations about that.”

Despite being couched in diplomatic language, the message Wilder wanted to convey came across loud and clear when he sat down with the media, ostensibly to discuss Villa’s visit, earlier today. The progress United have made in recent weeks, beating Arsenal and drawing with the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, could stall unless fresh faces arrive before the January deadline. Particularly as many of those below them in the table, Villa included, are expected to spend heavily when the market reopens for business on January 1.

Although Wilder concedes - both publicly and privately - that United are unable to compete financially with the majority of their top-flight rivals, he has proven adept at unearthing bargains since being appointed in 2016. Jack O’Connell, now valued at around £20m, was acquired for an initial down-payment of £250,000 while Lys Mousset’s value has already potentially tripled since his £10m move from AFC Bournemouth during the close season. The Frenchman was the only player to start Sunday’s win over Norwich City who was not at Wilder’s disposal last term.

“All in all, this is the group that came up and I thought they deserved the opportunity,” Wilder said. “But there are two or three positions where I feel we are a little bit light and where we need to strengthen to make sure performances and results aren’t affected.”

Jack O'Connell's value has soared since his move from Brentford to Sheffield United: James Wilson/Sportimage
Lys Mousset is expected to feature against Aston Villa at Bramall Lane: Darren Staples/Sportimage