Sheffield United manager, Chris Wilder, says the club can’t afford to “stand still” if they want to maintain their impressive form.
To Wilder, standing still is like going backwards. His managerial career has largely been an upward trajectory, with three promotions in his his last four seasons.
Two of those have come with the Blades, taking them from bottom of League One in 2016 to their current position of sixth in the Premier League.
There is a genuinely realistic chance that the South Yorkshire club could qualify for Europe next term. Heading into their home match with Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, they have 39 points from their 26 games played so far.
Fourth-placed Chelsea are only two points ahead, with Tottenham Hotspur having one more point and Manchester United trailing them by a single point in seventh.
Their hopes have been further boosted by Manchester City’s two-year ban from European club competition. It means fifth could now qualify for the Champions League, with the Europa League places potentially dropping as low as eighth.
How do Sheffield United ensure they don’t “stand still”
“We can’t stand still in terms of the group and I’m no different to any manager around the country. I’m looking to improve the players we have and looking to bring more through the door,” Wilder was quoted by FourFourTwo during the January transfer window.
The Blades subsequently signed Sander Berge in a club record deal. Panos Retsos and Richairo Zivkovic also arrived on loan with the option to buy on deadline day.
Yet if there is one area Wilder really needs to improve moving forwards it is goals. His team are by far the lowest scorers in the top half of the table. Everton, the next lowest scorers, have six more than the Blades’ total of 28.
In fact, only five teams in the entire division have netted fewer. Two of those – Watford and Norwich City – occupy the bottom two places. The others are all 13th or lower.
Defensively, Wilder’s men have been superb. Chris Basham, John Egan and Jack O’Connell have all shown they can make the step up from the Championship with aplomb. Only leaders Liverpool have conceded fewer in 2019/20.
Yet upfront it is a different story. It was the area Wilder concentrated on most greatly during the summer, bringing in three new strikers.
Oli McBurnie and Lys Mousset have both had decent spells showing their talent and potential.
The third, Callum Robinson, has already been loaned back to the second tier with West Bromwich Albion. Robinson arguably isn’t good enough for the top flight.
As loyal servants as they have been for the club, the same is also potentially true of David McGoldrick and Billy Sharp.
This isn’t a criticism of the Blades. Far from it. They have exceeded expectations and then some this campaign. McBurnie and Mousset have impressed at different points and Zivkovic is yet to be seen in a Blades shirt.
But Wilder will never be happy with his lot. That’s what makes him so successful. And if there is one area he can improve, this is it.