- Aug 6, 2009
- Reaction score
2019/20 SUFC SEASON REVIEW / SCHOOL REPORT
Rest of week will be posted as below
Friday – Part 5 Midfield
Saturday – Part 6 Attack
Sunday – Part 7 Final awards / Conclusions
Jack O’Connell Another outstanding season as he carries on his progression through the leagues with United. Big, strong, deceptively quick and good on the ball. He can head it, clear it and tackle but also reads the game well, is decent at passing and gets forward and overlaps/underlaps and puts superb crosses in. Like with many of the other players you worried whether it might be a step to far but it was far from that and he was totally comfortable. He is a better athlete than many give him credit for and is certainly not slow. People may look at his well-built frame and doubt his mobility but that is not the case at all. He maybe did not quite go as forward to begin the season but was involved in the first home goal, the winner v Palace. Gradually around Oct – Dec we saw much more of him and Bash as an attacking force but of course he defended really well too. No fuss, he just was solid, making tackles, blocks and reading the game. Has a knack for always being in the right spot and puts his head in where it hurts. I do think he has improved technically year on too.
Our defence for most of the season was excellent and he was a big part of that of course. Up to the lockdown he played every league game not sure he even came off in a game. You saw how much we missed him when he was out after the lockdown as we shipped in 6 goals in 2 games which we had not done at any other point in the season and we instantly improved when he came back in and was very good in the mini run we had in the middle but maybe he tired towards the end and dropped off a bit also right at the end. Robinson did ok but you saw how hard to come into this system and that is why him and Basham are so important. You need to learn how to play and the ability to defend but also get forward is so unique. These two lads are maybe the most important we have in that they define our blueprint for success.
He cannot be far from international recognition as there are players like Keane, Tarkoswski an latterly Mings who to me do not look anywhere near as consistent – the latter leading a bumbling backline that had been at the bottom. The knock on that is if he does get the call up, England maybe would have to play a 5 and he may not suit a flat back four. If this happened it would add to the worries in that he is one of the players other clubs may look at as he is a good age, only just 26, left footed, good in the air, decent on the deck and has everything you want in a defender. Maybe his lack of goals is something he needs to work on (not scored all season – with just one ruled out for the offside). He also plays most games – the rare injury was that just that – very rare and can be counted on week in, week out. You cannot remember many bad games he has had at all. Seems a quiet lad and not someone who wants a lot of fuss though and the fact he has remained living in Liverpool shows he is close to his roots and what is important to him- you don’t see him in the social media circles much and is not someone that shows much emotion in any way but that to me just marks him down as a real pro.
The facts are that him, Bash and Fleck are maybe the three (Billy too to some degree) have summed up our journey and the way they and the club have progressed is remarkable. Someone we have to hold onto as we continue to progress and build others around him and a few more.
Grade A- (Last season A-)
Chris Basham Embodies everything about the club at the moment and the rise and rise of the side. He was one of the few that was left from the Clough era when Wilder came in and is now our longest serving player by some way (if you discount Sharp being in different spells). One that every leap we make, people doubt whether this is too much. More than ever the top flight would be somewhere you worried players like him may get found out lacking the pace, athleticism and skill possibly and his all action style maybe a bit kamikaze. Any who thought that could not be further from the truth. He has been a revelation and right in the running for the player of the season (I won’t reveal whether he gets my award yet as that would spoil the surprise!). He was superb almost from start to finish and you could count the bad games on one hand. So consistent and full of energy. Some games he would be at the back making an interception and then he’d be overlapping down the right. He was phenomenal and his fitness levels are truly remarkable. For me though the biggest things (fitness is one thing) are his discipline/intelligence knowing when to go/not go and his continued improvement of his football skills – touch, control, passing and dribbling are now at a level I never thought I would see. He has worked on his technique so much and maybe makes me doubt that players say back end of 20’s cannot improve this side when clearly he has hugely. He has improved in every way and now it is a surprise if the ball bounces off him or his mis controls or overplays. He makes that lung bursting run down the line and so often is the one driving us forward.
So many moments like this that has led to us gaining territory. He is at times the most advanced player (the goal at Spurs summed it up when he nearly got on the end of the Baldock cross) which is remarkable. I loved the back flick to set up the goal v Villa at the Lane and he produced some incredible flicks and tricks over his head. Not sure he knows what he is doing at times but he is doing things like this often and comes out with the ball so must be things he is confident he can execute. I recall the dribbling run at City where he went past about 4 players for pace and skill. He has shown this a few times and is quite fast when he gets going with his long legs/stride. May not look a natural runner/dribbler but boy is he effective when he runs. That run where he strides forward, stops, checks back and then goes again seems to fox defenders every time. Some great combinations with Baldock, McGoldrick, Berge, Lundstram etc down that right side led to lots of possession and chances for us.
Like O’Connell will be disappointed not to score and the other knock is his final ball and end product sometimes is still a bit rushed or not always what you would want but that is again finding faults in an almost perfect season. He made odd mistakes (dived in a few times led to penalties for City and Arsenal (Cup) at the Lane but that is his game so you don’t want to take that away) and the pass v Vardy but for the most part he is 7-8/10 every week. Even after the lockdown others tailed off but for the most part, he was our best player in the majority of games and even the final games was the one who was still showing for the ball, running forward and trying to make things happen until even he ran out of steam.
A side story seems to be developing in that he only had a year left of his contract and Wilder had made comments about certain players (you’d guess him and Lundstram are those players) is concerning. Maybe his agent is saying at 33 he has to get the one big deal he can and is at the peak of his powers and maybe he is pricing himself out of a new deal here. Be a shame if this was the case. Seen Newcastle (home town club) and Burnley being linked but he is someone that is perfect for our club/team and vice versa.
For now, though it is time to reflect on a fantastic season. Love the guy. A modern-day Bobby Booker but better. He is at the heart beat of the team and have loved his ascension through the leagues and what he has done. Shows for a footballer who may have been around the middle leagues, to actually work at your craft, get super fit and show determination, you can make it at the top even if it is in the later years of your career.
Grade A (Last season A-)
John Egan After a shaky start proved to be a rock in his first season and became a bit of a legend on and off (the song) the field. He showed he was great in the air, committed, would make good tackles, read the game and got better with the ball as the season went on. For 4 million pounds he was a snip. Began the season with the same questions as those posed at those above him if he could handle the step up and especially if we carried on with the system we had used, you felt him particularly could get badly exposed against world class strikers. Well, for the most part it never worked out that way. We did not know what to expect but he carried on his fantastic progress and had a very good season. Looks for the most part composed and unrushed. Brave, great in the air and won so many clearances/headers and blocks. He kept his shape as others went forward and often was able to just nick the ball away or come across and cover. Can move across the deck better than I thought and his passing and ability on the ball has improved. Just looks unflustered much of the time (although how he can defend against top level strikers and work his gum so effortlessly always surprises me!) Very brave player and one that as Wilder says is another captain type, who is always talking and a real leader at the back. Compliments the other two perfectly. Even when playing some top strikers, he held his own and won the battle more times that he lost them.
Unlike the other two centre backs he also got a few goals – a wonder strike at Burnley and then the last-minute bullet header to beat Wolves. He should get more goals as Wilder said but he will take confidence from those. He needs to just keep his headers down – as he and the other head things up in the air like defensive clearances when they go forward.
Not perfect season and some so-so games. I recall a misplaced header v Leicester at home led to a goal and also recall him getting done with the goal at home to Newcastle as came out to play offside and had a difficult night v Andy Carroll but he did not have many bad games and for a good portion of the season was really consistent. I would say he was one of the players that did not come back as sharp and had a few poor games and I felt after the lockdown his form was really bad to start as he got done for pace and even outmuscled a few times in some less than convincing performances but like the team was fantastic in the run of home games before he too dropped off again.
Overall though a great season. He has a few more years left contractually but another where we have wanted to tie down to longer but not happened yet. He must see some quite average centre backs go for 20-30 million and think I am as good as them and maybe want wages to reflect that. Therein lies the issue with United’s progression and will see a few contractual problems as these players rightly want to be paid like others at the level.
A friend of mine says Egan could be replaced and is someone if we keep progressing could be a weak link. I disagree as feel for where we are, he is as good as we are going to get without spending like Maguire/Van Dijk type money. He sometimes gets stretched and maybe the system causes that but he did not get exposed anywhere near as much as we thought and it was only after the lockdown some of his weaknesses showed up but his qualities far outweigh these.
Grade A- (Last season A-)
Enda Stevens A player that had surprised and amazed many Blades. A lot have defended him (including myself). I recall him starting really well in the Championship in his first season and being excellent but then he dropped off, as did the team. I recall a lot saying we needed to replace him and upgrade which seemed very harsh. He kept his place, rightly, and had a superb season in the promotion season and finished the run in as our best player with goals in games against Forest, Hull and Stoke and even had a song!
The system we play meant he would be under more defensive pressure but for the truncated season, he had basically a great season up to the break. He defended well and kept some really good wingers quiet and also got forward. I felt he started the season a bit reserved but gradually United and he, grew into the league and became more adventurous. He showed his excellent skill and underrated turn of pace as he assisted quite a few goals (Chelsea away, Burnley/Bournemouth at home to name a few) and also had that knack of being able to nutmeg players and did this quite a bit in the early months. Had that little drag back where he comes back and then goes inside. Also, the bit of skill where he plays a one two and is off before it has left his feet – like a cricketer backing up at the non striking end almost! He also executes that throw in one-two better than anyone in the team. Him and Fleck (and Jack) continued to link well. I thought what pleased me the most was his defensive work also as this was sound most of the season. He got a few goals, a header at Norwich showing how advanced they get from the wing backs – Baldock crossed this too and a howitzer of a shot v Brighton – a contender for individual goal of the season.
When we came back, he looked a different player for much of it. He was abysmal in the opening 3 away games (as were most of the team) but he stood out. He could not pass, control or do the basics and his massive blooper v Newcastle summed him up. He slowly got better in that mid section of games and played really well in the wins (great assist v Chelsea) we had but then he, like the rest of the team, dropped off. Just looked like he had lost his sharpness and his basic things did not come off and mistakes started creeping in. My mate said it was like he has the yips and I know what he meant. That happens and his body of work over 3 seasons means I don’t worry he will get back to his best. However, with Osborn moving more into midfield we do need some real backup/competition in this area as not sure Robinson is a left wing back either (know he has played here).
Grade A- (Last season A)