As the season heads into the festive period four games between this coming weekend and early New Year can be quite a defining moment in a normal season. There are of course still twelve points up for grabs before the second of January and no one would like to pick up maximum points than Sheffield Utd and Chris Wilder.
Plaudits were won during last season for a tactical game plan that worked and took points from many of the top six. Upon resumption in June to finish off the season, Wilder’s team struggled to get back the momentum and limped through the final month to finish a credible ninth in their first season back in the Premier League, just five points away from qualifying for European competition.
For promoted clubs there is always talk of ‘second season syndrome’, there is a relative air of the unknown for clubs that go up, a bit of mystery that gives them a little edge on the established clubs and picks up points. The second time around however is a little harder that everyone knows your game plan and there isn’t the personnel brought in to just switch it around a little.
Of course not every club has the same resources to be able to do that, and it then becomes a struggle to maintain that top-flight status whilst heaping more pressure on managers to find a way through it.
The Blades’ problems do stem from picking out parts of last season. Despite their impressive efforts they only managed to score thirty-nine goals in thirty-eight games, only four other teams scoring less than the Yorkshire side. At the other end of the pitch they conceded exactly the same amount as they scored with only the top three sides letting in less goals, it’s very easy to see where the issue lies.
Goal scorers cost money and despite the riches of the Premier League some clubs are reluctant to shell out the cash. To some extent for those who aren’t part of the very rich end of the table it can seem to be the right decision but the current position for Sheffield Utd is now meaning chances are going to need to be taken in January, just five goals this season is the main reason why they are bottom of the table.
With just a single point from the twelve games played prior to the loss to Manchester Utd, Wilder will know that the situation cannot continue much longer, almost one third of the season has gone and the club are currently eight points adrift from safety which is already looking a tall ask without a victory to their name.
There is time and enough games to salvage the season but wins need to come soon. Crucial away trips to Burnley and Brighton & Hove Albion in the next three weeks must now be seen as three points each and no less.
The defeat to Manchester Utd makes their mission a lot tougher but again they need to start picking up points and if the Blades can gain at least a point from each home game alongside those away games the trip to Crystal Palace in early January will be more of a welcome relief than more pressure filled ninety minutes.
One or two more losses before Christmas Day arrives might result in Wilder being relieved of his duties, it would be a shame to see that happen given the effectiveness his game plan was through the early part of last season that contributed to the top ten finish.
Football however is a results based game and is not kind to any man when things are going against the grain, time might run out for Sheffield Utd if things don’t change rapidly one way or the other.
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