Sander Berge has been one of the big success stories of an otherwise wretched opening three games for Sheffield United.
After initially struggling to adapt to the pace of play in England, Berge showed some improvement post-lockdown and has seemingly carried that into this season. The Norwegian looks fitter, stronger, and more confident with each passing game.
In the last two games, Berge has been deployed in the deep-lying playmaker role we have become so accustomed to seeing Oliver Norwood occupy. Then, within those games, he’s pushed to the right at times and offered us more going forward. He looks comfortable in both but it does leave Chris Wilder with a bit of a problem now.
In our system, we only have room for one sitting midfielder. That means if Berge is there – as we expect he will be long-term – then there is no room for Norwood. And there lies the conundrum for Wilder.
While we are all probably accepting that, over time, Berge will be the man in that role Norwood sits in, at the moment, is it a position we can afford to tinker with?
Yes, John Lundstram provides energy on the right of the three, while the other side is a battle between Ben Osborn and John Fleck. But without Norwood in there, we seem to be lacking a bit of direction.
Norwood’s experience and knowledge of our system has been crucial at times. We know he can give the ball away but we also know his speed of pass and, crucially, ability to choose the right pass, is vital to us. Not only that, but given how we play, his ability to quickly and accurately get the ball into dangerous wide areas is a big deal.
Berge has done well. But there’s an argument to be had that he’s done better when given license to roam a bit more.
He caused Leeds problems in the second half on Sunday with some marauding runs. The Norwegian effortlessly glides across the field and with Norwood as his insurance policy, he could offer so much to us as an attacking unit.
But that’s the conundrum Wilder now faces. Does he go with his £22m man in what is thought to be his most natural position, or does he go back to what worked so well against Chelsea, Wolves, and Spurs at the back-end of last season?
When asked about his decision to deploy Berge over Norwood recently, Wilder bluntly replied, ‘because I decided it was time’.
It’s certainly an interesting proposition for the Blades boss and one that, by his own admission, is pleased to have.