After a short break following the FA Cup last week, there has been a lot of time for reflection for the Blades, after 2 losses and a draw in their previous 3 games. United have churned out some haphazard defensive displays, and struggled to find a regular source of goals other than Billy Sharp. Despite this, I think it is crucial to draw the positives from these games and the break in order to rationalise what it means in terms of a promotion charge.
Firstly, neither Bolton or Scunthorpe really capitalised on this slump. Bolton now sit 7 points below The Blades, with 2 games in hand. Scunthorpe on the other hand are 1 point clear of the Blades, with 1 game in hand. However, with United still to play both of these sides later this month, and by already having the points on the board, they could look to be in a very strong position come the end of February.
One or two eyebrows have been raised about the recent displays, in particular the way in which goals have been conceded. Since Ebanks-Landell replaced Jake Wright in the middle of the back 3, the side’s defence has seemed to lack leadership and has conceded some sloppy goals at times – 10 in the last 4 games to be precise. However, the reinstatement of Wright to the heart of the defence is something I think would solve this issue quite quickly.
The time to put things right has been a process aided by the lack of late incomings to the club in the January transfer window, giving the squad time to gel and regroup over the break – something which will come as a positive considering the recent dip in form. Wilder changed system before, and I am sure he will utilise this break to do so again. With Carruthers and O’Shea added to the midfield, as well as the addition of Hanson up top, United should add more goals to the side as a unit. Also by signing Lafferty on a permanent deal, as well as Chapman and Ebanks Landell for the rest of the season, Wilder has really solidified the squad’s depth of quality.
The side is now at its strongest point since losing out on promotion to Huddersfield in 2012, and had the ability, diversity and depth to go one better this time around. There is variety up front, assured goals in Sharp, one of the most creative midfield in the division, adding to that the best defence and goalkeeper the club has seen in many seasons. There will be bumps in the road, but I have every confidence that Wilder and this team are good enough to grind this one out.
Image taken from – sufc.co.uk