It is now more than a month since Everton loanee, Mo Besic, played a game for Sheffield United.
Not only that, but the midfielder has failed to even make a match-day squad since that last appearance against Millwall on January 25 in the FA Cup fourth round.
Prior to that, Besic had been involved in eight of the Blades’ last nine Premier League outings. The 27-year-old started both encounters against Manchester City and was used from the substitutes’ bench in the other fixtures.
Yet even though manager Chris Wilder making five changes for the FA Cup victory over Reading on Tuesday, Besic was still not involved. That was despite the fact the Bosnia and Herzegovina international had played the full 180 minutes for the Blades in the competition so far this season.
So why is Besic out of favour? What’s changed?
Possible reasons Sheffield United are no longer playing Besic
Besic dropping out of the match-day squad coincided with the club record signing of Sander Berge from Genk.
After arriving from Belgium in a £22m deal, Berge went straight into the starting XI three days later at Crystal Palace.
The Norway international hasn’t been out of the team since, starting all four matches in all competitions since his arrival at Bramall Lane.
With John Lundstram dropping to the bench as a result, competition in central midfield is now more fierce for Besic.
Doesn’t fit the system
In a three-man midfield, the natural role of the more defensively-minded Besic is in the centre. Yet that is occupied by Oliver Norwood to great effect.
Norwood is the epitome of a deeplying playmaker, rarely venturing too far forwards but dictating play from the back with his wide range of passing.
As a result, Besic has to occupy one of flanking positions. With limited attacking prowess – despite a superb goal from distance against Millwall – that doesn’t suit the Bosnian as well as it does Fleck and Lundstram.
When United know they won’t have much possession, such as against Man City, that is less of an issue. Otherwise, it’s a little too negative to select Besic.
Only on loan
When it comes down to it, Wilder is less likely to invest time in a player who will be leaving the club at the end of the season than he is on a permanent fixture.
That may sound harsh, but it makes sense.
Besic may have been in contention for a place against Reading on Tuesday, but Luke Freeman instead got the nod. Freeman was signed from QPR last summer and will remain a Blade next term as things stand.
Besic will instead return to Goodison Park.