The next Premier League match for Sheffield United against Fulham already looks like a crucial one.

Both sides head into the current international break having lost all four of their league matches so far this season.

It leaves the two teams in the relegation zone and while it’s still early days, that is something they will want to address quickly.

For the Blades, they are yet to be completely outclassed in any of their defeats. They have also arguably been on the wrong end of some controversial refereeing decisions.

Yet that said, they scored their first – and so far only – league goal of 2020/21 against Arsenal on Sunday. Even that came in the 84th minute when they already trailed 2-0.

There are issues within their control that manager Chris Wilder will want to fix.

How Sheffield United can improve against Fulham

When domestic football returns on October 17, United host the Cottagers at Bramall Lane. With back-to-back fixtures with Liverpool and Manchester City after that, three points could well be vital.

So what needs addressing?

Left side of defence

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The potentially season-ending injury to Jack O’Connell is a huge blow to the Blades. Wilder has already given a list of replacements to the board and one could well arrive before they next play.

Yet even if that doesn’t happen, changes are needed. O’Connell’s absence has been greatly felt, with Jack Robinson filling in for him in central defence.

Robinson doesn’t offer the same type of dynamism at the back or going forwards. This, in turn, is hindering Enda Stevens in the left wing-back role, who isn’t providing the sort of creativity from out wide seen last season.

The O’Connell role is one that Stevens actually has experience in, playing there at times during the Championship promotion campaign of 2018/19.

With new signing Max Lowe ready to come in, perhaps Stevens should switch to centre-back with Robinson dropping out.

Midfield creativity

Aston Villa v Sheffield United - Premier League

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Ollie Norwood started all 38 league games last term, but has been on the bench this time around since the opening day 2-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

In a flat midfield three, Wilder has preferred Sander Berge in his usual defensive role in the middle. With good reason too, with Berge excellent at breaking up play and helping out at the back.

The problem is, with no Norwood providing a range of passes from deep, the Blades look stifled for creativity.

John Lundstram is a willing runner and good box-to-box option, but isn’t playing defence-splitting balls. Both John Fleck and Ben Osborn have offered little from the other side.

Norwood is missed, but getting him and Berge into the starting XI possibly requires a change of formation. Which is why, especially against Fulham, Wilder could revert to the 3-4-1-2 that got them promoted two years ago.

Berge and Norwood could both play deep and would complement each other. It would mean no place for Lundstram, Fleck or Osborn – but there is a solution in the attacking midfield role.

Attacking impotence

Arsenal v Sheffield United - Premier League

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The other obvious problem area is in the final third. One goal in four matches is not good enough. With the aforementioned midfield setup, the strikers look isolated.

It’s probably also time to stop thinking of David McGoldrick as a striker. While the 32-year-old scored that only goal to date against the Gunners, his real influence lies in linking up play.

Which is why McGoldrick is the perfect option as a number 10 ahead of Berge and Norwood. The Republic of Ireland international can drop deep and create issues for the opposition in that space.

This would allow Oli Burke – who has been a positive influence since arriving from West Bromwich Albion this summer – a genuine number nine as a strike partner.

Burke runs at defenders and his pace is a threat. But he’s not an out-and-out striker and does his best work on the edge of the box.

That’s where club record signing Rhian Brewster comes in. Brewster wasn’t registered in time for the weekend after his £23.5m (BBC Sport) transfer from Liverpool.

Hopefully by October 17 the 20-year-old will be ready for action. Yet even if Brewster can only make the bench, Oli McBurnie would be a solid partner for Burke.

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