Before the beginning of this season, Sheffield United was considered as serious contenders for relegation by many football fans. However, due to their unique style of play, they are currently sitting in the seventh position with five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea. Sheffield United have achieved this feat without any significant signings with a squad consisting of players who played in the Championship and were deemed not up to par with the standards of the Premier League. Praises need to be given to Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder, a former Sheffield United ball boy, player, and captain. Chris Wilder has enhanced his coaching pedigree after leading Sheffield United from League One and the Championship to the Premier League, where they are now challenging for a European spot. They have also made it through to the FA Cup quarter-finals. It’s fair to say that Sheffield has performed beyond expectations and has set itself up to make a legitimate run to challenge for a European spot, but could this happen.
Could Sheffield United’s European dream come true?
Sheffield United are dreaming of qualifying for a major European competition for the first time in the club’s 130-year history. The UEFA Europa League spot is up for grabs if they can hold on to their current position on the league table. Clubs like Tottenham and Arsenal are both behind them, which at this stage in the season with nine matches to end the season, could suddenly become more of a cause for concern than celebration. After all, these teams are seasoned European competition teams that have done it all before. These teams have the pedigree, experience and are historically more likely to have the staying power for a late-season surge that could spoil Sheffield United’s party. But given the way Sheffield United has performed so far, it is hard to see them falling at the final hurdle. Sheffield United has been a delight to watch and has refused to be intimidated by the big boys in the Premier League. Their trump card this season has been their defense and the way the coach has tweaked the system to make them more solid at the back. Sheffield United has been a well-oiled machine from the back. Their understanding of total football and positional rotations with their overlapping center backs taking the positions of wingers and forwards dropping deeper into midfield positions can be called exceptional. Sheffield United have conceded only 25 goals out of 28 matches to date, keeping nine clean sheets in the process. The form of goalkeeper Dean Henderson has been extraordinarily influential. However, one area they have to improve is their goal-scoring department. They have to start scoring more to keep their European dreams alive. The omens are good for Sheffield United, and perhaps the most impressive aspect of their performances is that they’ve always been competitive and always tried to earn at least a point from tricky away matches. Sheffield United have some tough encounters to play when football gets back to normalcy. The team will face Man United, Burnley, Leicester City, Chelsea, Wolves, and Tottenham. These are tricky games they can’t afford to lose because any slip can ruin their chances of making it to Europe next season.
What needs to change at the club next season?
Sheffield United has been the surprise story of the season in the Premier League, producing several exciting performances.
Moving forward, they have to improve the squad quality, especially the attacking third by committing significant resources into bolstering their attack. If Sheffield United are to qualify for next season’s Europa League, they need the squad depth to compete in both the league and Europe. Some Premiership clubs have struggled after qualifying to the Europa League with a typical example being Newcastle in the 2012-13 season who finished 16th in the Premier League, 11 places below the position in the previous season which saw them qualify for Europe. Also, just two seasons ago, Burnley placed 15th after qualifying to the Europa League in the last season. However, it’s not always doom and gloom. Wolves are in the round of 16 of this season’s Europa League and are currently sixth on the league table, 5 points behind fourth-placed Chelsea in a Champions League spot. As such, Sheffield United can take a cue from Wolves if they are to qualify for Europe next season.