There was a fair bit of excitement around Sheffield United signing Ben Davies last summer from Liverpool.
The former Preston North End man had got a surprise move to Anfield off the back of good form with the Championship club and a desperation from the Reds in terms of defensive numbers. As we know, Davies never played a game for Liverpool, but few begrudged him accepting a move to Merseyside.
Former Sheffield United manager, Slavisa Jokanovic, moved to bring Davies to Bramall Lane. At the time, he was seen as the ideal signing. Capable in a back four which Jokanovic was using at the time and to the left of a back three, insiders at Preston certainly thought United had got themselves a player.
However, with just two games left of the Championship season, there are big question marks over whether Davies has done enough to warrant a permanent Sheffield United switch. Here, then, we’ve looked at whether Davies is worth pursuing for the Blades.
Ben Davies Or Jack Robinson
In short, and as things stand right now, the answer would probably be a no. While at times Davies has looked a classy operator to the left of John Egan, the fact is we look a better side when Jack Robinson plays. And who’d have thought we’d have been saying that at the start of the season?
But Davies has, at times, looked a soft touch. He was at fault recently against Reading twice, with Robinson brought back in for the two games since then. Granted, he is better at bringing the ball out than Robinson and calmer in possession. But he lacks the intensity that Robinson brings to the table. Essentially, the left and right centre-backs are key to setting the tone for the whole first XI.
The basic stats will show Davies does well enough. 1.5 tackles and 2.6 clearances per game, along with 85% passing accuracy (Whoscored), are steady enough. For comparison purposes, Robinson comes in at 1.4 and 2.9 on those metrics, with just shy of 80% passing accuracy.
Crucially, Robinson has been involved in 12 games where United have kept a clean-sheet, with Davies involved in eight.
The biggest factor here in terms of the club pursuing a move will be what division United will be in. If we are promoted, then there is no chance the Blades will look to sign Davies. He isn’t a Premier League player, or at least, he hasn’t shown he is.
If United remain in the Championship, then a loan move would be the only way Davies comes back. He signed a long-term deal with Liverpool, meaning wages and a fee – as things stand – are stumbling blocks for United.
Of course, United’s potential takeover could change everything. That opens the door for permanent signings, which could see Davies emerge as an option, or the club look elsewhere.
Another factor in seeing Davies back in red and white could be United’s decision on Jack Robinson. The Blades defender is one of a few out of contract this summer. If he does go, and Davies can come back on loan, it at least covers the position.
For now, though, Ben Davies shouldn’t be an overriding priority for Paul Heckingbottom. Yes, he’s done ok and has good experience at this level. But there are others out there, probably on less money, who can do the job.