Sheffield United’s return to the Premier League has gone as well as many fans could have hoped for so far.
The Blades sit 9th in the table with three wins and three draws from their opening nine games. They have managed to keep to the principles which saw them promoted twice in three years under likeable manager, Chris Wilder.
While those commonly known principles of ‘overlapping centre-backs’ and high work-rate have been well documented, Wilder has adapted his team to combat the better quality of opposition – both on the pitch and on the touchline – that the Premier League offers.
The key change Wilder has made has been to deploy midfielder John Lundstram in midfield. John Fleck and Ollie Norwood remain regular fixtures too in a central three.
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And it’s this key change, coupled with the performances of Lundstram, which have led to some fans calling for the England management to recognise the Blades midfielder.
Lundstram was high on the list of players in the ‘not good enough’ bracket – in the eyes of some fans – when United won promotion. An almost forgotten man last term as Mark Duffy operated in a number ten role as part of the midfield.
It is a testament to Lundstram then, that he has delivered and become indispensable for Chris Wilder’s men. Nine appearances – all starts – have cemented his place in the United midfield. There’s more than just running box to box in his game as well.
Lundstram got the winning goal against Crystal Palace. He arrived in the box perfectly to gobble up a rebound and slam home, while his all-round contribution has been excellent.
He’s become United’s chief creator despite the presence of Norwood and Fleck, laying on four big chances for his teammates already. Lundstram also delivered the sublime assist for Lys Mousset to open his Blades account at Everton.
The call for England to recognise Lundstram becomes even more apparent when you compare him to Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson. The Blades man trumps Liverpool’s ‘Mr Reliable’ across the board. Key midfield attributes such as forward passes, touches, and pass completion percentage all see Lundstram ahead.
Of course, there are other factors to bring into play. Experience at the very top level and longevity at the higher echelons of the game being just two.
If Lundstram continues to deliver as he is, that England call from Gareth Southgate might not be too far away.