Wilder was 'desperate' to sign O'Connell replacement - will it cost Sheffield United? - Sheffield United News
Wilder was 'desperate' to sign O'Connell replacement - will it cost Sheffield United?
SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14: Jack O'Connell of Sheffield United in action during the Premier League match between Sheffield United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Bramall Lane on September 14, 2020 in Sheffield, United Kingdom. (Photo by Visionhaus)

Wilder was 'desperate' to sign O'Connell replacement - will it cost Sheffield United?

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder says he was desperate to sign a replacement for Jack O’Connell in October.

The Blades knew O’Connell would miss the rest of the season after having a knee operation before the transfer window closed.

Yet despite having the time to bring in a new signing to cover for the centre-back’s absence, no one came through the door at Bramall Lane.

They were linked with several names from the Championship. This included Terence Kongolo – who joined Fulham instead – as well as Ben Davies and Diego Rico.

Preston North End’s Davies and Bournemouth defender Rico remain January targets.


But Wilder clearly wanted someone sooner than then.

“It was something that I would have desperately liked to have done (in October),” the 53-year-old told Yorkshire Live.

“Missing a player like Jack is a big blow for us. We are working tremendously hard and we are always looking and watching in the recruitment world.”

Has lack of action cost Wilder and Sheffield United?

Photo by Peter Powell – Pool/Getty Images

O’Connell being unavailable has clearly affected United, who currently sit bottom of the Premier League table after eight games.

They have just one point, but even more tellingly they have the fourth worst defensive record in the division.

Only the three newly promoted teams and Liverpool have conceded more than them so far in 2020/21.

This is in stark contrast to least term, when O’Connell was playing for all but five league games. In 2019/20, only the top three sides conceded fewer than the Blades.

It was a fine defensive display that helped them to ninth – their highest finish since 1992.

However, O’Connell has also been missed in attack. One of the famed overlapping centre-backs in Wilder’s unique system, no one has adequately replaced him that department either.

Both Jack Robinson and Enda Stevens have played on the left side of the back three this campaign and neither has impressed.

That’s not to say Davies or Rico would have done any better, but they have both been doing well in that exact position in the Championship this season.

Instead, Wilder is having to make do – and will continue to have to do so for almost two months’ longer at least.

If United have truly been cut adrift by then, how costly a decision will that look? Especially as Wilder had clearly warned the board recruitment was necessary.

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