Some said it as soon Sheffield United were basically down at Christmas in 2020. Some said it when relegation was confirmed. And some have continued to say it into this season. This Sheffield United squad needs overhauling, and quickly.
Blades owner Prince Abdullah told the Sheffield United Way YouTube channel not so long ago that he feels this squad is good enough to win promotion. After all, in his eyes, it’s the same team plus a few loan players and a minus a goalkeeper, that finished ninth in the Premier League.
However, a brilliant report from The Athletic this week has highlighted how the Blades squad is in need of change. And it’s in need of that change before things get any worse.
The Athletic’s article focuses on metrics developed which suggest when a player in a position should reach their peak. As described in the report, “The analysis was calculated based on the share of minutes per age across each position, over the past 10 Premier League seasons.“
And looking into more depth at the Sheffield United squad and the average player age for position, it doesn’t make good reading for Blades fans.
Worryingly, United have just three members of the squad considered to be in the peak age range. Of those, one is a loanee in Ben Davies. Another defender, Jack Robinson, is selected, while utility man and former Nottingham Forest ace, Ben Osborn, is the other.
In defence and midfield, though, is where United’s problems get deeper, based on this analysis. In the back-line, Enda Stevens, George Baldock, Chris Basham, and even John Egan, are all considered past their ‘peak’.
Across midfield, John Fleck and Oliver Norwood are both way past their respective peak block. As is loanee midfielder, Conor Hourihane. In essence, that statistic there confirms what a lot of Blades can see with their own eyes.
Looking to the future, there are some beacons of light in The Athletic’s analysis here. Young stars like Iliman Ndiaye, Rhian Brewster, Jayden Bogle, and Sander Berge are all considered to be some way off their peak years.
Close to the line are players like Lys Mousset, Oli McBurnie, and Oliver Burke. However, whether those three – especially Moose and Burke – are given long enough to realise their full potential at The Lane, remains to be seen.
Naturally, players like Adlene Guedioura, Billy Sharp, and David McGoldrick are almost falling off the opposite end of the spectrum!
There are other ways to look at things in football, of course. The Athletic’s assessment here isn’t the be-all and end-all. Every squad has players above and beyond those ‘peak’ metrics. But United’s trend is worrying and needs addressing.
As mentioned in the report, Fulham have ten players – including Aleksandar Mitrovic – in the peak ranges. It’s little wonder, then, that they are doing so well this year.
For Slavisa Jokanovic and the Sheffield United board, addressing this issue must start in January. Whether that’s in the form of loan players closer to the peak lines as younger players, or players simply not playing who are in their prime years. Within our own squad, harsh decisions are going to have to be made on some players who will be considered legends.
Certainly, United’s points total and performances in the last 18 months would suggest that The Athletic are on to something here.