In their 2020/21 season preview, The Guardian has named Ollie Norwood as the key player for Sheffield United.
The new Premier League campaign kicks off this weekend and the national newspaper have been previewing those involved.
After a ninth-place finish in their first top flight season in 12 years in 2019/20, they think the Blades will continue to build on that success.
Yet while they have signed many new faces since returning to the big time, it is someone who helped them gain promotion from the Championship who apparently remains their most important figure.
“Norwood played every league match last season and embroidered each one with his artful passing, providing the thread that connected most of United’s best moves as well as offering high-class set-pieces deliveries,” the piece reads.
“But he is no fancy dan and also does his fair share of tackling.”
Are they accurate about Norwood and Sheffield United?
The midfielder did indeed start every league match for United last term. Although he is far from unique in that regard. George Baldock, Chris Basham and Enda Stevens also achieved the same feat as manager Chris Wilder relied on a solid core of personnel.
Yet Norwood’s stats do suggest how key a player he is to Wilder’s side.
From his deep-lying role in the centre of a three-man midfield, the 28-year-old made 450 more passes than his next closest rival in the Blades squad in 2019/20.
If there is anyone available to Wilder who doesn’t truly have a like-for-like replacement, it’s Norwood. Club record signing, Sander Berge, does have plenty of experience as a defensive midfielder – but the retired Northern Ireland international is a little more than that.
With United playing more long balls than any other team last season, Norwood is the centre point of creativity. His range of passing from deep isn’t matched by anyone else at Bramall Lane.
Not that Norwood shirks his defensive responsibilities. Only Basham and Stevens made more tackles than him. Meanwhile, only Basham and John Egan completed more interceptions.
There are several important players for United, but arguably Norwood is indeed the most key.