Norwich City head coach Daniel Farke gave a very accurate prediction of how Sheffield United’s second season would play out.
Farke led Norwich to promotion from the Championship alongside the Blades in 2018/19.
While the German’s team relied on free-flowing attacking football to win the title, Chris Wilder’s men were much more defensively solid.
The Canaries scored a division-high 93 goals, but seven other teams conceded fewer than them.
That included United, who let in just 41 goals – the lowest total alongside Middlesbrough.
They carried that form into their first Premier League campaign in 12 years in 2019/20.
The Blades finished ninth with the fourth best defensive record in the top flight. Meanwhile, Norwich stuck to their attacking principles and ended rock bottom, letting in eight more goals than the next worst defensive team.
While Farke won out in the second tier, it seemed that Wilder and his side adapted far better after making the step up.
Yet that has disappeared this season. United have made the worst start in Premier League history, losing 11 of their opening 12 games and having just one point heading into Thursday’s match with Manchester United.
Daniel Farke saw this coming
While not referring to the Blades specifically, Farke accurately analysed this potential downfall in the summer.
The 44-year-old was asked why his team had struggled in the top flight.
“In general, the teams that are promoted because of a solid defence find it easier to adapt to a higher level because they’re still solid,” Farke told the Canaries website in July. “If they’re then able to add quality in the offence, they have a good chance to stay in the league in the first season. They have more problems the year after, because, with no offensive plan, they struggle to take the next step.
“Teams who are promoted with a brilliant offensive plan and a possession-based side find it difficult to be successful in the first season, because on a higher level they’re not that outstanding anymore. They have to do what’s not that much in the DNA of the players. It’s more about defending to be solid. The offensive players who were praised that much in the season before then need good defending behaviour.
“These types of teams struggle a lot in the first season. Once you’re then capable of staying in the league, then the second and third years are much easier. It was the same 30 years ago and will be in 30 years in all other countries.”
How do the Blades turn it around?
In truth, it looks very tough from this position.
As Farke says, with no offensive plan in place it’s difficult for newly promoted sides in the second season.
As good as the Blades were at the back last term, only four teams scored fewer than them.
Without that defensive solidity to fall back on in 2020/21, they have not only lost all but one of their games, but never truly look like winning.
This is not to say Wilder has done anything specifically wrong. After all, a man who has won two promotions and a ninth place top flight finish in just four years clearly knows something about management.
Nor is Farke criticising them. His Norwich side also had the worst attacking record last campaign, scoring 14 fewer than United.
Wilder got it right, while he got it wrong. But Farke has also made a very astute observation.
One which will be all to familiar at Bramall Lane currently.