Ollie Norwood is finally being given his chance at Premier League football and Sheffield United are reaping the rewards.
The former Northern Ireland midfielder is getting his chance under Chris Wilder in the top-flight. After helping both Brighton and then Fulham to promotion, he was twice shunned before being given an opportunity.
However, now captaining the Blades, Norwood is relishing his shot at the big-time it seems. Indeed, Norwood has appeared in every Premier League fixture this season for United.
Along with John Fleck and John Lundstram, Norwood has been integral to United’s success. Sitting at the base of a midfield three, Norwood’s ability to keep play ticking over and switch play quickly has been crucial.
Furthermore, his positional sense and discipline has helped Wilder’s men create a solid foundation. That discipline was highlighted in the run-up to Christmas. One yellow card away from a suspension, Norwood put in level headed performances without sacrificing his game to ensure he was available.
It makes it all the more baffling, then, that both Fulham and Brighton passed up their chance with Norwood. Both clubs would surely now take him at the drop of a hat.
Competing with the very best
When you look at Ollie Norwood’s position in the Blades XI, he’s essentially the midfield anchor. It’s a key role and one which requires a mindset and skillset not many players have.
One player who does play a similar role is Chelsea star, Jorginho. The Blues star is widely regarded as one of the best in the world at what he does. However, Norwood stacks up quite well when you look at some of the basic stats.
Both players are above 80% when it comes to pass completion. This is pretty impressive, given Norwood has made 1251 passes, with Jorginho just above on 1385.
The midfield pair also create for their team. Norwood and Jorginho have laid on five and six ‘big chances’ for their teammates (PremierLeague.com).
However, while Jorginho might be the one playing his strikers in more (he has 13 through balls to Norwood’s one), it is the Blades star who offers more defensively. The stats are impressive, too.
Norwood eclipses the Chelsea man in tackles made, clearances, headed clearances, and aerial battles won. For a midfielder of Norwood’s slight stature, it’s pretty impressive stuff.
And while he’s yet to actually register an assist, 98 crosses (set-pieces included), suggest one is not too far away.
Proving a point
For all the stats we can point too, the one thing that is certain is that Norwood has shown he belongs in the Premier League.
He’s the calming influence in a Sheffield United team who, at times, need that steady head. His experience at international level has clearly played a role in his nature in the middle of the park.
While Fulham and Brighton can only look on and wonder ‘what if?’, Sheffield United are the ones who are reaping the benefits of Norwood’s performances.