Ollie Norwood played and then was withdrawn as Sheffield United beat Plymouth in the FA Cup yesterday.
The experienced Blades midfielder has come back into the fold in recent weeks at the base of midfield. Whether that is more through a lack of options than choice is unknown, but Chris Wilder seems to have gone for a few of his trusted soldiers of late.
Norwood, as we all know, endured a bit of a nightmare against Spurs last week. Two crucial moments of losing possession in the midfield allowed Jose Mourinho’s men to win the game and Norwood has come in for some criticism since.
But yesterday Norwood proved himself a valuable player for United. Yes, it was against League One opposition, but the midfielder scored well in key statistics and when he went off, United arguably lost control of the game.
Long passes, short passes, Norwood did it all
Without delving into any stats, anyone who watched the game will admit we surrendered a bit of control without Norwood in midfield. He was withdrawn around the 75 minute mark and from then, the Blades were under siege a bit from Plymouth.
But looking at a few key stats, Norwood impressed and showed why he is so important to the Blades midfield when on his game.
Per WhoScored, Norwood completed – rather impressively – 15/15 long balls, while he also played the eye of a needle ball for Billy Sharp to score, and completed over 93% of his passes through the game, a team high in terms of players in front of the back three.
Whoscored’s metrics also gave Norwood the second highest rating overall in the XI. A 7.5 behind only Billy Sharp.
Yes, Norwood’s ‘legs might have gone’ a bit as people say. But he’s never been quick anyway or relied on any sort of pace.
Of course, United need to replace Norwood if we are to progress and improve as a squad and a football club. But yesterday was a little reminder of what he can bring to the table and why Chris Wilder has kept him around the squad for so long.