Billy Sharp was one of the players to drop out today for Sheffield United vs Barnsley today, as the Blades ran out 3-2 winners at Oakwell.
The skipper, who has been in fine form in fairness to him this season, was dropped back to the bench as Slavisa Jokanovic finally opted to give Oli McBurnie and Lys Mousset minutes from the start.
Jokanovic, to his credit, made a bold and brave call. Sharp has been doing well, while McBurnie hasn’t been brought on in the last two, and Mousset is known for his fitness issues. But the call might have just paid off, and in the end, it might be Sharp who ends up being the biggest loser from the decision.
Despite the first half being a poor one on the whole for both Sheffield United and Barnsley, there were some signs at times for the Blades.
Up top, McBurnie was winning his fair share of ball (6 aerial duels won), while Mousset was getting in behind down the channels, and Iliman Ndiaye was everywhere as he tried to get on the ball and make things happen.
Sure enough, into the second half, things did start to click a bit. That trio of McBurnie, Mousset, and Ndiaye started to find space, as did Ben Osborn, who helped himself to two assists and a goal.
It was interesting to see McBurnie dropping off at times. But he also occupied defenders well, with the Barnsley backline taking note of his physical presence.
Noticeably, too, when Ndiaye left the field, we suddenly started to struggle for energy down that right side. Yes, David McGoldrick played a nice pass as part of the third goal. But he didn’t offer quite the same as the youngster.
Finally, when Mousset was taken off through injury, the Blades lost that out ball in behind as Barnsley pressed on. Sharp, for all his endeavour, is never going to have the speed to make those out-balls count.
Of course, all this suggests that Jokanovic might have stumbled upon an exciting front three here. In the short-term, Sharp could struggle to get back into the team immediately. Albeit, if ‘Moose’ is out, then Sharp will be the one to come in you’d suspect.
A home tie with Blackpool is the perfect chance to give that trio another chance. It’s a winnable game. And a chance for McBurnie, Mousset, and Ndiaye to keep building chemistry.
For Sharp, he knows his time will come again. Whether that’s against Blackpool, or beyond. The good thing for Jokanovic is that some of the attacking players are starting to take the weight off the Blades skipper.
And in the long-term, that can only be a good thing for this Sheffield United team.