Season Review / School Report 19/20 Part 6 - Attack / Fans / VAR

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Deadbat

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2019/20 SUFC SEASON REVIEW / SCHOOL REPORT



Rest of week will be posted as below



Sunday – Part 7 Final awards / Conclusions







Strikers



Billy Sharp
It was inevitable new strikers would come in as we needed more quality and competition. Hogan, Washington and Madine were only short term options and we needed to up the ability levels hugely with the jump up. Sharp had scored 23 goals the previous season and been fantastic and a real talisman and showed the doubters again that it did not matter what level of the Football League he would score goals no matter what age he was. The celebrations he showed around the club/city showed to him what it meant and how proud he was to skipper ‘his’ club to promotion again but this time to the top flight.



I did not think that he would be a regular at the top level but still felt he had a part to play and deserved his chance to be involved. He was quite visible in all the media stuff in the lead up to the season and clearly very welcoming to the new players. Although, when Robinson, McBurnie and Mousset came in you did wonder if he would even make the match day squad to start the season but he did. It was all set up for him to come on and score United’s first goal back at this level and he obliged with a scrambled finish before the wild celebrations in front of the Blades fans. He was on the bench for the opening weeks but then stupidly kicked out at a Southampton player and got sent off in a defeat and we did not see him for a while after this due to suspension. He came on as sub in a few games but did not start till Newcastle but struggled and was booked. He got a surprise start v Man City but it was hard with little service but kept his pace even after the cup game and played a run of games v Palace, Bournemouth, Brighton and Norwich. He was sub in the cup game at Millwall sandwiched in between but came on and scored. He of course scored in two home games in the league and played well in this run of games and finally looked like he had got his chance and was determined to take it.



In the break, he was clearly missing his football and we saw a lot of him on football focus, twitter and many other social media outlets as he once again represented himself and the club really well. He never hides from doing things around the city whether it be for kids, charity or anything that makes others feel better and he showed what a fantastic ambassador and captain he is.



After lockdown, he started against Villa and Newcastle but we created nothing and then quickly Wilder went to McGoldrick and McBurnie for a run of games and we only saw him fleetingly from the bench. He did not make much impact when he came on and not sure being a sub quite works for him as he finds it hard to get used to the pace of games. He played the final game and missed 2 sitters by his standards and looked quite slow and ponderous and ended the season with a lot debating why he got another deal.



He ended up with just 3 goals in the league but only started 11 games so was hard really for him to amass many more and at this level with good teams who see a lot of the ball, it is tough as you do not get many chances. A lot of striking play in a team like ours and indeed many outside the top 6/7 is about work ethic, team work, holding the ball, making runs and defending from the front. With all due respect, Sharp does work hard but lacks the pace, stamina and strength to run across the front line all game and is not going to outrun defenders. What he still is, as he showed with his goal, is a box player who can finish when given chances. It’s just at this level you do not get many unless you are the top teams. Ironically I look at the chances someone like Jesus misses at City and think put Sharp in the City team and he would score 20+ in that team.



In terms of his future, he signed a new deal which I was a little surprised as not sure in two seasons, if we continue to maintain Premier League status if he will be involved or around the first team squad much. Next season he may get the odd game/cup game/sub but do not see him starting much at all and think it will be less than the 11 games he started this season. He needs 2 more goals to get 100 league goals for United so hope he can do that. Hope he proves me wrong but just feel as fantastic as he has been for us we need to keep progressing and this area we need more pace/power to create goal/goal threats out of nothing. Not sure that will ever be Sharp’s calling card. The deal for me was as much about rewarding him for his efforts. I am not sure he would ever want to drop back down the league and play for another local lower league team but I could be wrong. I think he would love to finish here. Now 34 and he will be 36 when his deal runs out; I can see him then maybe going into coaching perhaps.



Grade B- (Last season A)



David McGoldrick
Had a fantastic season in the Championship and was superb all year, scoring goals, linking play and being a real key man in the final weeks. He loved everything about the Blades and great to see his celebrations and how much it meant for him at his age to crack it and get to the Premier League. The sort of player who deserved his chance as he has worked hard (came on trial of course) to get his chance and make it happen after being a bit journeyman for most of his career - had the chance of a move to Leicester that fell through years ago when he could have moved to the Premier League. I had no doubt that his football brain and ability would still show at that level but worried that he had never played this high and his lack of pace and dynamism may get found out. I was not sure he would perhaps be able to get on the ball enough but he was able to and for the most part had a good season which is odd when he missed chances and did not score!



It is really hard to praise a striker who played 23 games and scored only 2 goals (in the same game) but I am going to! He was for me still our best striker this season in terms of how he played. Mousset did well for 3 months before Xmas, Sharp came strong for a spell before lockdown and McBurnie had some good spells and some indifferent spells too. The most consistent player of the bunch was McGoldrick. He began the season ok and showed the good football we had seen as he helped link play as we had some good early results. I do recall him missing a few sitters in some games though – Southampton was one such match. However, his play remained really good – I recall the games at West Ham and Spurs where he juts glided around and oozed class and of course was denied that first goal by Lundstram’s big toe and a ridiculous VAR award. I felt against Burnley and Man Utd at home, others may have scored but he stepped into midfield and helped us control games against some really powerful opponents. He missed another bucket load of chances at Wolves and at Norwich and then was superb v Villa again setting up play magnificently. Still no goal though and I recall the worst one of the lot at Brighton when he rounded the keeper and somehow shot wide (I remember leaping off my sofa and then looking at my son and us both having our mouth open before putting our head into our hands!). He started more games than any of the other strikers and whilst he had a few games out; Wilder always seemed to go back to him. His goalscoring record may have become a joke to many but most United fans, whilst saw it as a concern and wanted him to score so bad, saw what he was doing to the team and his all-around play.



After the lockdown he was also instrumental and the one who suggested taking the knee which all teams followed and handled some awful racism on twitter with real class. Just a top, top bloke who no one seems to ever say a bad word about him. Back on the pitch he struggled to begin with but then slowly his performance improved and v Spurs and Chelsea he did well and I I was so pleased when he finally got his goals and just gutted, we were not there to see them go in. His big beaming smile was fantastic to see. He trailed off again at the end but as I have said a lot, so did the entire team who just look mentally and physically shot.



As for next season, of course he is not getting any younger either and nearly 33 but his game is such that it is never about pace and he seems to keep himself fit. I think another striker/s may come in but feel he will still play his part and he of course signed a new deal too. Some may say that is a year too long but I think whatever happens he is a useful lad to have around as can play a number of those positions up the top of the field and do different roles. He does need to improve his goal output of course (46 shots and 15 big chances -all missed bar 2!) but I think most Blades recognise what a fantastic footballer he is and will just continue to admire watching him play.



Grade B (Last season A-)







Oli McBurnie
We were linked with him and Maupay and him for much of the off season and it seemed like at one point it would be Maupay – then McBurnie and then both maybe? Maupay’s wage demands seemed to make this a harder one but both teams, Brentford and Swansea, were asking for sizeable fees for two of the leading scorers in the league (Maupay 25, McBurnie 22 – Sharp was 23).



McBurnie had began his career at Bradford before a move to Swansea for 250,000 who spotted some potential in the 19-year-old who played 15 games but did not score. His first few years in South Wales, he was not that close to the first team and was on loan to Newport and Bristol Rovers but was part of a successful Premier League reserve side down there with the likes of Daniel James. He did make the bench to start the 17-18 Premier League season but then he went on loan to Barnsley. It was here he really made a name for himself and scored 9 goals in 17 games including a goal against the Blades. He was named the Barnsley player of the year in a struggling side and got called up for Scotland.



He returned to Swansea where he was a regular in the side fresh from relegation and had a great season. He scored twice against United as the Swans did the double over us and he was a real handful. Seemed to run all day, be strong, good in the air and a goal threat. I really liked him and one of the few strikers our defence really struggled with. He scored 1 in 2 but Swansea missed out on a top 6 place. Graham Potter left and more players moved on and it seemed inevitable he would move if the right bid came in.



17.5 million rising to 20 seemed a lot but is the going rate for a young, scoring striker in the second tier. He was briefly the most expensive Scottish player. This drew criticism from the Scottish fans/press who have never taken to him and his form may have been patchy when he does play for the national side but then other good players (Robertson etc) also have struggled in a losing set up/poor side. It did not help his cause when he mocked the fact he had to go and play for his country in a poorly made joke caught on camera.



His United career saw him begin on the bench as he had only signed a week before but came on the first few games. He then scored off the bench with a towering header at the Kop end, his first for the club and started the next few games but it was more of a struggle in this spell and not sure he was that effective in games v Chelsea, Southampton, Everton and Liverpool. He then was out of the team for a while but did score a late goal against Manchester United in a thriller. For this part of the season, McGoldrick and Mousset had a good run and was only given a rare chance v Newcastle which was a defeat. He got back in the side at Brighton and scored a great goal as Wilder did start to rotate more. He then had more of a prolonged spell in the side and from then on he started most games and maybe was our main striker – he scored a winner v West Ham but the goals were not exactly flying in but showed to be hard working with real effort and desire. He maybe was not as good in the air as I thought he would be with a lot of loopy headers and he lacked pace/strength with his wiry frame. Still, his willingness to chase and run and try and be a player for the team.



After the lockdown his season was kind of summed up. Poor in the opening few games but then great against Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea and the latter two he was immense never giving the defence a moment, holding it up and scoring two goals. He then was non existent in the final three game and that summed up his season – great one game, poor the next and this happened too much.



He has finished with 6 goals which is not a lot but Haller only got 7 and he cost 45 million – Wesley cost the same (20 million+) and did not score a goal. Maupay got 10 but then I do look at the contribution to the team. He has done well at times and contributed to a really good season from the team. Individually all the strikers will think they could maybe have scored more but then the flip side is they are not missing lots of chances.



I think his season was ok – it was not a great season but not a bad one. There is promise there. My biggest concern is he is quite inconsistent. He can go from 8/10 to 3/10 in 2 games and that happened a lot and he was maybe a 1 in 3 really good performance type player. We need him to do it more. The strong running, hardworking, nuisance we saw in some games, we need to see more. He does need to get stronger for me as gets shoved out of it and work on his heading (in front of goal). I think due to his lack of pace (he is quite slow) and trickery (he is a decent footballer but not going to dribble round men or produce skill to create a yard for a shot very often) his goals will often look the same. I can’t recall him ever having a shot from outside the box or trying a volley or anything outlandish. Most of his goals were bread and butter finishes headed or shot close range. He needs to come back stronger, fitter and able to be the man next season. I am not sure we are going to go out and spend 20-30 million on another striker (hope we do) – so the onus will be on him and McGoldrick to be much more consistent and to score more goals somehow. Maybe they won’t due to the type of strikers they are but that means we would need another striker to compliment either/both of them.



Seems to be a character (dress sense/mannerisms and things he does off the pitch) and has embraced the United culture. A Yorkshire lad who seems to know that working hard on the pitch and not hiding in front of the fans is really important.



He was quite active on social media and seems to not care what he says/dos. No issues with that as long as he does not cross the line and realise, he is representing our club. However, a few incidents saw him go the wrong side of the line in terms of his behaviour. He was caught drink driving in October and eventually banned for two years in July. He also made the decision to go to a rather high-profile South Wales derby and dress like he was in Goldie Lookin Chain was maybe not the best but he compounded It by doing the ‘W’ signs to the Cardiff fans. It was not the first time he had gone back and watched Swansea in garish clothes that are associated with terrace culture shall we say?! He was given a warning by the FA. Wilder seemed less bothered publicly but did say he needed to be more careful and I do wonder whether privately he was not as polite in his reaction to his antics.



Grade B (Last season NA)
 

Deadbat

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Callum Robinson We signed him and Freeman from the Championship and the general consensus seemed to be these were good buys. If we went down, they had proved they could play at the Championship and do well. Robinson also was quite young and seemed to fit the model of player we were looking at in terms of enthusiasm, ability to improve and someone who had been at a big club (Villa) in the top flight but had to work his way back up. United and Norwich had been linked with him and he chose the Blades as we agreed a 7 million fee. It may have been our record fee at the time but in the market due to his age/potential seemed a really good fee. I had no issues us buying from the league below – we knew the market and could not be going in for massively expensive Premier League players on huge wages yet.



His early interviews showed someone with a lovely beaming smile and clearly so excited to be here. He had been at Preston for a few years and had a few good seasons but got a bad hamstring injury and only came back right at the end of the previous season. I actually recall him playing against us and struggling a bit. He had shown to be a pacey striker who could play just off a striker or as a striker in a two but mostly did play a fair bit on the win or to the left or right of a three. I did worry a bit how he would be used at United as not sure he has a main striker type as he liked to run the channels and onto the ball. United’s football is more patient and get it into the overloads and work a chance rather than balls to run onto but I felt good players can make things work and his pace/running and ability to get in good areas would see him being a useful addition to our striking department. He actually ripped it up in pre-season with a number of goals and really impressed and it seemed certain he would do enough to start and so it proved. He was also good in the first half at Bournemouth but then struggled in subsequent home games but came back with a great second half at Chelsea, maybe his finest game as a Blade, as he scored one and set up one in a stirring comeback. Oddly he was left out for the next game v Southampton which seemed harsh but was back in for games v Everton, Liverpool and Watford but did not really look like scoring and was one of our weaker players and got subbed in all these games. Mousset scored the winner v Arsenal but Robinson got enough chance as Wilder did not feel Mousse was fit enough to play 90 minutes (ironically he never was). Robinson missed a big chance at West Ham when it seemed easier to score and then McGoldrick and Mousset had a great run in the side although he did assist in the leveller v Man Utd. After this we did not see much of him. He did play at City in a surprise start but struggled to get in the game. He scored in the cup game v Fylde but went from maybe the first or second choice to fifth choice. He was involved again in the equaliser at the Emirates but overall, he became a bit part player. McBurnie had started to do well and he was allowed to leave for West Brom. I was not shocked as did not seem him featuring much. Zivkovic came in too and so there was no real room and Wilder probably felt he needed to go out and get his confidence back.



He went to West Brom and scored a few in his early games and impressed but then as lockdown came, he ended up being used more from the bench which was a worry if they had loaned a Premier League striker but would rather use their own. He looked up and down in the games I saw, even at a lower level. Clearly always enthusiastic to start game and made good runs but often taken off or would run out of steam. He did play and score in the vital game when they went up. Seen a lot saying WBA will sign him but not sure they will. If he was not a regular at Championship level then surely Bilic will look for better and will have seen he made no real impact at this level with us. He probably suits West Brom more in the sense of he can get in little pockets and they play a formation where he can come off wide. For United he struggled as a two and we don’t play wingers or with a formation that he can really thrive. He is not a back to goal player and won’t come and receive. I was a bit disappointed with him even discussing the formation as he seemed a bit weak and his touch was not sure. I also expected him to be fast and in simple terms, he was not at all. It all looked a bit quick for him and the standard just seemed too much. Lots of centre backs just brushed him aside and not sure he ever formed any kind of partnership with others either.



Seems another really nice lad but his future is up in the air. He said he expected to be back at United but not sure I see a player that is going to quite fit here or more than that quite good enough for where we are now. If we can get our money back, I would move him on but not sure we will find a taker with the depressed market. I can see him going back on loan to another Championship team; maybe on a season loan and we will get a few loan fees etc and recoup some of the cash that way. He is not a Premier League player for me and for someone who has played most of his career in the middle of the Championship, I see that as about his level sadly.



Grade D+ (Last season NA)



Lys Mousset
Bit of a left field signing this one. He had been at Bournemouth quite a while and had cost them a lot money (over 7 million) but seemed to have completely lost his way and was never close to a regular. Many seemed shocked we had spent 10 million pounds on someone who had barely scored/started down on the South Coast. His flash colourful Lamborghini car and outlandish hair style marked him out early as a bit of a maverick type but clearly Wilder felt it was a punt worth taking. I recall seeing him at Hallam and he looked overweight and nowhere near match fit but looked explosive. I recall one run and shot and thinking wow. I recall the two Hallam players looking at each other as if to say what did we do there? Recall after the game him being really friendly with all the kids signing lots of autographs/posing for selfies.



It was clear he needed to get fit and match fit and so was not involved until he came on against Blackburn and showed a few glimpses but then the next week when finally involved in the league he made a huge impact as he came on at Chelsea, helping force the late leveller and looking a real threat with his pace and running. I came out genuinely excited as he offered us something up top, we had not got. He came on at Southampton in a loss but then at Everton scored his first goal with a great run and finish and then a few weeks later after a few more sub appearances and a cup start v Sunderland, he got a start and the winner v Arsenal and was excellent. He was rested at West Ham but came on and scored again – a clever goal and then was excellent as he started a number of games against Burnley (assisted three goals and a constant threat) and played well in nearly every game. He was really good at home v Man Utd, with a powerful assist and then a great goal –long shot. He scored at Wolves too and seemed on fire and was getting better and better. He looked a snip for the money we paid and him and Didzy had an excellent partnership. The only thing that was a concern was he could not last full games. We continued to pick up wins and he was still playing quite well but maybe started to drop off a bit but was unfortunate not to score at Man City with the VAR decision going against us. He was not great at Liverpool or Arsenal and then we went with McBurnie, Sharp and McGoldrick more and he was used off the bench. He did assist in a goal against Bournemouth.



Had a number of friends/family bereavements around Xmas time and seemed to just fall away. McBurnie started to do well and Sharp also became more involved. He had a few injuries and never seemed to be fit.



Indeed, we waited all season for him to get fitter and be able to last more than 60 minutes and it never happened. He always seemed to be blowing even when he came on as sub and after lockdown he looked out of shape and the fact, he went down a few times when he came on holding his leg summed it up. He did start v Man Utd but in this and others he actually looked poor in a few cameos but then was superb against Spurs and scored and for 30 minutes looked like the lad we saw earlier in the season. He was strong, quick and looked powerful and they could not hold him up. This was the first time we had seen this since before Xmas. He did ok as sub in a few other games but then we did not see him again. Of course, after being left out against Everton of the whole squad rumours were there has been a bust up and Wilder’s ‘no comment’ seemed to back this up. There were rumours he had gone back to France without permission whilst others said his habit of continually turning up late for training had seen Wilder finally have had enough. Then Wilder actually came out and said his girlfriend had given birth and he was allowed to go back. It was strange he did not say this when first asked though after Everton? Seemed there was more to it but maybe I am reading too much into it. It always seemed Wilder was desperate to get the best out of him but he did not always stick to the plan when he played and at times would lose the ball when we were holding a lead. It was frustrating as he often would play a bit of an individual game. When he was on it and did the things, he was good at, he was a real asset. I often wanted to see more of him even after his form dropped and then he would come on and you would think, ‘Ah, that’s why he is not playing him!’



Frustrating, as talent wise he should be our number one striker. Quick, strong, mobile and athletic. Got a hard shot and can finish as he showed. He has got the lot to be a top striker but his head does not always seem to be right and he is woefully inconsistent and quite ill-disciplined when he plays. He also seems to never be fully fit and cannot last a full game. So, the questions marks he had at Bournemouth that plagued him have come to roost here, albeit Wilder found something for a period Howe did not – he scored double the amount of goals with us in a season he did in 3 seasons at Bournemouth.



I have graded him higher than maybe many would be that spell from Sept to Xmas, he was one of our stand outs scoring goals, assisting and looking a real threat. Whatever happens to him, the fact he scored a number of goals and played so well even briefly almost pays his money back – that is what staying in the league for another year can do. 10 million for the goals/performances he put in even sporadically is not a lot when you look at likes of Haller, Wesley and Joelinton who cost a lot more and done a lot less even with more games.



In terms of his future, the speculation seems to be that he maybe on his way out. Wilder will not hang around. I am not sure many other Premier League clubs would take another punt on him after having two clubs and not establishing himself and maybe he might go back to France. I do think there is a top player in there and still only 24 but he has to find it from within to go and take that chance.



Grade B (Last season NA)
 

Deadbat

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Leon Clarke Clarke seems like the player who will always be here no matter what. He was one of Wilder’s first signings and has been here throughout the journey. Doing well to end the 16-17 season and then having a superb 17-18 season and proving many of his doubters wrong with a prolific season and a real scoring spree mid-season. He scored the famous double at Hillsborough and at one stage Villa were seriously linked with a big 4 or 5-million-pound signing with his contract status up in the air. He of course resigned with us as a reward for his strong play and then did tail off after this but still finished as our leading scorer with 19 goals and made the PFA team of the year. When McGoldrick came in, him, Sharp and Clarke rotated the first few months before the Billy and Didzy formed such a great partnership. Clarke struggled for goals but did get a vital one at Brentford. He eventually ended up at Wigan on loan and of course helped his loan club in a vital win at Leeds and was seen in some of the end of season videos with the players and went to Las Vegas.



He ended up being transfer listed which was not a surprise with us looking for younger and better-quality players but nobody signed him. His contract was probably quite prohibitive for many Championship or League One clubs so he stayed around; playing in a few league cup games and was named in our 25th man in the Premier League squad. Incredibly with a few injuries he made the bench against Liverpool and then nearly scored a late leveller but blazed over (might have been offside if it went to VAR) in his Premier League debut at 34 years of age. He played and scored v Fylde but you thought he may move on but it never happened and whenever you saw social media of the team training, there he was with his gloves on. He grew some hair in lockdown and remained with the club as his contract ran down but got a cameo for the Southampton game which was good to see.



Overall, he has been an important part of the last 4 years (well 3 as not really involved this year) and those first 2 years, his contributions cannot be forgotten. He is another that when he signed, most United fan were not sure at all citing his Wednesday connections and the number of clubs/inconsistency but he actually might have had the best spell of his career in a 9-10-month period from April 2017 to Dec/Jan 2018 where he could not stop scoring. He looked a fast, mobile striker who was unplayable for a period and many United fans will remember this fondly. He goes with United’s fans best wishes and sure he will go and have a final year or two down the leagues and his know how will net him quite a few more goals.



Grade D+ (Last season C-)



Richairo Zivkovic Like Retsos, another left field signing; who came in not long after the more heralded Berge signing. Zivkovic has played for four clubs in Holland and two in Belgium and then went to China all before the age of 23. He had been seen as a real protégé as a youngster and clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona supposedly after him when he burst onto the scene at Groningen, his first club. He went to Ajax and then played for their development side scoring a number of goals but ended up in Oostende. He scored 12 in 50 but then he went to the other side of the world and the Chinese league and signed for Changchun Yatai. Of course, the standard over here is up for debate but he did net 15 in 25. When we signed him, it seemed lots of videos being shown evidenced his pace but maybe lack of composure in front of goal. Although one goal where he runs the length of the field certainly excited some Blades fans. With a number of strikers in front of him, it was always going to be hard for him to feature too much but the lockdown seemed to provide him chance to get fully match fit and acclimatised to the country and his new team. He ended up coming on for a few of the losses with the games lost but looked a bit headless chicken in those opening games. He then did quite well v Wolves with a few bits and pieces and came on and did a few more ok bits but then looked woeful in a losing effort at Southampton. Not sure we saw enough of him with the ball but he only had limited chances. We have an option to buy so be interested to see if this is taken up but I would think not if I had to take a punt as he has not shown enough to me – when we had strikers in poor form – he still did not get a start which says it all.



Grade C (Last season NA)



Next season




The weakest part of our team. The stats show that. Lowest amount of shots and lowest amount on target. 20th in both category. It’s not all down to the strikers and sure, we play a certain way where we are solid and won’t create tons of chances but we do have to improve here. The odds are we won’t be quite as solid next year and won’t have as many clean sheets/concede so few so have to get better in other areas and find more goals. Yes, the other areas (centre backs and midfield) need to score more but Lundstram/Fleck/Norwood/Berge did ok with 11 goals for a mid-table side (where we finished). We need to find more of a reliable goal threat up here. I know we had a striker by committee approach and moved from Robinson-McGoldrick to McGoldrick-McBurnie to McGoldrick-Mousset and then Sharp-McBurnie and then McGoldrick-McBurnie again. I think the best partnership was Mousset-McGoldrick but that ship may have sailed (see above). Not sure any really gelled completely – maybe they had spells but we need to improve.



McBurnie with 6, Mousset with 6, McGoldrick with 2 and Sharp with 3 and Robinson with 1 and Zivkovic with 0; that is 18 goals between around 76 starts between them and around 30 sub appearances. That is not really enough. There are some lower teams lucky to have an Ings type and most leading scorers are not actually too much more but all have a player they can look at for 10+ goals. At the moment not sure we can. The reason why most have been rotated is not down to just fitness and number of games but more down to the fact non were that consistent in how they played/scored. They all did well at times but it was up and down. McGoldrick was our most consistent performer and the one we seemed to do better when he played but did not score so we had to compensate for that.



Not sure Zivkovic has shown enough to stay around so expect him will leave. Mousset may move on but maybe not and we will wait and see what happens and I do not really see Robinson being involved that much if he stays and actually think he will move again on loan if WBA do not sign him.



Sharp has nicked a few but I was surprised he got a new deal and do not expect him to be involved that much next season. He is a box player who thrives on chances and at this level you don’t get much. Our strikers have to do the hold up, running the lines, nuisance factor etc and not sure with his lack of pace/size he can do that. I am not sure he will be used that much.



So that leaves us with McBurnie and McGoldrick. You expect them to feature a fair bit but if these two started next season as our main strikers most of the time and the defence drop off even a bit we are going to be nearer the bottom than top. We somehow have to improve in this area.



I like both of these players and my main hope is McBurnie can really get more consistent and keep improving as he is the one, we see as the future striker for many years but he has lots to work on and can’t do it 1 in 3 games. In an ideal we would find a link player like Didzy who can score and is younger but they would cost us 100 million!



I expect with those two around and Sharp being used sporadically then if Mousset and Robinson depart we need two more strikers. Ideally one absolute top drawer one but that costs money we have allegedly not got to spend. I also would like us to sign a younger player who has raw pace and can offer us something we do not have as we are too static at the top – a player like Mousset but who is more reliable and can stay fit.



Definitely the area we need to improve on but will take some creativity to do it – I think in the UK players cost a lot and no guarantee – look at main strikers from the league below last season – McBurnie and Maupay who have found goals quite tough and not been regulars every week. We may have to explore the foreign market but then as we have found there is unpredictability as they have to adapt to the UK/this league and our style. It is important that we get the next signing/signings right in this area as if we fail on both then that could see next season become a struggle. This is a key priority maybe more than anywhere else (outside the keeping situation) we have to improve for next season.







Player / Position Years remaining (contract expires) Red this year – Orange next year - Green longer contract –





Forwards






Leon Clarke Out of contract (2020)

David McGoldrick 2 years (2022)

Billy Sharp 2 years (2022)

Lys Mousset 2 years (2022)

Callum Robinson 3 years (2023)

Oliver McBurnie 3 years (2023)






Return to loan clubs:



Richairo Zivkovic back to Changchun Yatai
 

Deadbat

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The fans




Finally, a word for the fans. We have managed to see an average of over 30,000 at home and almost every away game was full – in fact I think we sold out for every away game did we not in the league? We saw the team drop off a bit after lockdown and this showed how important and what a lift we can give to the team – ironically though we did quite well at home though even with no fans. There were some quiet/down games at home but for the most part it was loud and supportive and some of the bigger games the place was jumping – Arsenal, Man Utd etc. Seeing a packed, sold out home or away crowd and a great deal of noise and pride in what we are supporting was magical. It was what we all have been waiting for. Just a great time to be a Blade and shame Covid has put a block on things as would be fantastic to still be going week in, week out. Hope we can all get back soon and be there every week. I miss so much the pre and post game (especially after we win) and had some fantastic away days (thanks to Webding for his company/humour etc) watching United this season. It is without doubt the best ever time to be a Blade and hope when we all start being able to attend then we can get back to properly backing this incredible manager and team.

Grade A

Officiating / VAR

Of course, VAR came in and there was a feeling back up by the decisions that we did not get much going for us. It is interesting as the table suggests that but then some of these by the rules were clearly right

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/53553300


This is the official list/breakdown for VAR…taken from ESPN



Sheffield United -5

Overturns:
11
Leading to goals for: 0
Disallowed goals for: 5
Leading to goals against: 1
Disallowed goals against: 2
Net goal score: -4
Subjective decisions for: 1
Subjective decisions against: 2
Net subjective score: -1

Game: Southampton (H; Sept. 14)
Incident: Oliver McBurnie's goal disallowed for offside, 52nd minute - AGAINST



Game:
Tottenham (A; Nov. 9)
Incident: Goal for David McGoldrick disallowed for offside in build-up by John Lundstram, 60th minute - AGAINST



Game:
Newcastle (H; Dec. 5)
Incident: Jonjo Shelvey goal, originally ruled out for offside, cleared by the VAR, 70th minute - AGAINST



Game:
Norwich (A; Dec. 8)
Incident: Red card for Chris Basham rescinded, 74th minute - FOR



Game:
Aston Villa (H; Dec. 14)
Incident: Penalty awarded (missed by Jack Grealish) for handball by John Egan, 76th minute - AGAINST



Game:
Brighton (A; Dec. 21)
Incident: John Egan goal ruled out for handball, 8th minute - AGAINST
Incident: Jack O'Connell goal disallowed for offside, 54th minute - AGAINST



Game:
Manchester City (A; Dec. 29)
Incident: Goal for Lys Mousset ruled out for offside, 29th minute - AGAINST



Game:
West Ham (H; Jan. 10)
Incident: Goal for Robert Snodgrass ruled out for handball in the build-up by Declan Rice, 90th minute - FOR



Game:
Crystal Palace (A; Feb. 1)
Incident: Red card for Joel Ward rescinded, 74th minute - AGAINST



Game: Tottenham (H; July 2)
Incident: Goal for Harry Kane ruled out for handball in the build-up by Lucas Moura, 32nd minute - FOR


----
I do not want to go through every little incident VAR or otherwise but I will go through major incidents and come up with my list of what went against us and for us. Some were clearly due to the rules (West Ham, Spurs) but I am going to do a bit of an Alternative end of season officials / VAR review/table (League only)…..


This is not just on VAR but on major decisions that went against us also – some I may agree with the officials – also I am going to twist it a bit and say some that whilst the rules say handball etc – I think they should be given (so I am not only critiquing VAR but also the rules – granted on the day the officials/VAR have to give due to the rules being in place). So before you start arguing about the rules – the below is in a utopian football world what we should have got and not got!!!

---
Bournemouth (A) – Opening day. Norwood got caught really late by Fraser. It was high and reckless. Should have been a red card. AGAINST
FOR 0 AGAINST 1

Leicester (H)
– A lot felt Egan was pushed in the back on the winning goal. I felt that the player just got up above him and Egan was planted. No United players appealed. Close one this but not sure there was enough contact for a foul. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 0 AGAINST 1

Southampton (H)
– We had a few in this one. McBurnie was offside on the goal (sorry Egan was I believe from the flick on) so on this one OFFICIALS CORRECT. However, Ward Prowse committed a clear handball that VAR somehow did not see as a penalty. AGAINST. The Sharp red seemed more clear cut for a late lunge – looked worse slowed down but not sure he could argue too much. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 0 AGAINST 2

Liverpool (H)
– Mane was fouled quite clearly in the box by Lundstram – it should have been a penalty. FOR
FOR 1 AGAINST 2

Arsenal (H)
– There were appeals for at least one penalty by Arsenal in this game. One was desperate but Egan did grab hold of his shirt at a corner and I felt we got away with that one a bit but then as I said before there is lot of that in the box I feel. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 1 AGAINST 2

Tottenham (A)
– The offside goal on Lundstram was a new quirk of the VAR but even slowed down and looking at it so many times not sure I am convinced he was offside. Also, for me it was a new phase of play. One of the worst we had all season. AGAINST
FOR 1 AGAINST 3

Manchester United (H)
– The McBurnie goal was checked but it looked borderline shoulder/arm. Not sure it was obvious to me that it was a hand and it was right that the goal was given. OFFICALS CORRECT
FOR 1 AGAINST 3

Wolves (A)
– Baldock was very lucky not to get sent off. Already booked and then committed a series of fouls. Not sure how he survived. FOR
FOR 2 AGAINST 3

Newcastle (H)
– This is a hard one as by the letter of the law it was onside and of course that is what VAR is for but I think it was ridiculous that the linesman put his flag up and all the players stopped. You say play to the whistle but the game had almost stopped due to the confusion. I can see why they had too given it but for me this is really hard. Take out VAR and the olden days you would play to the whistle and the referee makes the final call. I am torn between whether this one but if it had been the other way around and we had run through and scored and the ref had stopped the game I would have been livid. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 2 AGAINST 3

Norwich (A)
– One for us and one against us. The one where Bash went through and then Lunny scored was correctly ruled out for offside but it was a penalty. AGAINST. Bash went in late but it was rightly downgraded to a yellow after a review. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 2 AGAINST 4

Aston Villa (A)
– Egan did seem to handball it quite clearly. No issues with the overturn here. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 2 AGAINST 4

Brighton (A)
– Two went against us here. The Egan one for me should have counted – I know it’s the rules but that was not intentional at all. AGAINST The O’Connell one was offside. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 2 AGAINST 4

Watford (H)
– Clear trip on Baldock for only penalty of the season. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 2 AGAINST 4

Manchester City (A)
– A few bad ones this day. I felt the Mousset one much like the Lundstram one you could not say for definite and the angles where the lines drawn were all wrong. I am not sure City would have complained if it had gone in our favour but another one of those close VAR decisions where the freeze frame of when the ball left Fleck’s feet and the angle can make it look on or offside in my opinion. These are the sort that need to be goals. AGAINST. The same game the ref gets in Fleck’s way. He could have used common sense and blown up and had a drop ball. City again would not have complained. He literally set up the goal! Unfortunate yes and technically the rules say nothing wrong but a quicker ref can stop that and avoid any issues AGAINST
FOR 2 AGAINST 6

West Ham (H)
– Yes, it was a great moment and yes the rules say it should be a handball but the rules are ridiculous. It should have counted. FOR
FOR 3 AGAINST 6

Manchester City (H)
– An awful Besic tackle but for me right to be yellow and a daft trip by Bash in the box. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 3 AGAINST 6

Crystal Palace (A)
– We had the goal over the line clearly (Hawkeye worked for us here!) and then Baldock actually once again was lucky to survive after a yellow and another cynical foul on Zaha. FOR. We then had the Ward red card which was rightly overturned. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 4 AGAINST 6

Brighton (H) –
There was an appeal for a red for a high foot from Lundstram but not sure it was intentional and would not have seen the player Dunk coming. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 4 AGAINST 6

Aston Villa (A)
– Nothing more needs to be said. Hawkeye failed and it cost us a goal. AGAINST
FOR 4 AGAINST 7

Newcastle (A)
– The Egan first booking was a bit of a nonsense and then he gets a second which was right but a poor first decision by the ref. AGAINST
FOR 4 AGAINST 8

Tottenham (H)
– See West Ham. The rules were applied correctly. The rules are a joke and to me if football had common sense this would be a goal every day of the week. FOR
FOR 5 AGAINST 8

Burnley (A
) – Clear handball against Peters. No idea why this was not given. AGAINST.
FOR 5 AGAINST 9

I may have missed a few but think above about covers the main ones – the big ones going against us were Lundstram with the offside, the Newcastle controversy at home and the Villa one of course. We had a few others go against us of course. The big ones that went for us were the two hand balls in the attack (and McBurnie’s). Technically these were correct but we also were lucky not to lose Baldock in 2 games we took 4 points from.
 

hello

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So...those lower than 6th have to rely on teamwork, holding up the ball, and making runs.
So what's a Liverpool goal consist of aside from that?
 

nezimão

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So...those lower than 6th have to rely on teamwork, holding up the ball, and making runs.
So what's a Liverpool goal consist of aside from that?

presumably the key word was ‘rely’, in the sense that the top six have multiple players who can change a game with an individual piece of skill. liverpool clearly have a great team ethic, but don’t ‘rely’ on it to get results.
 

hello

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And the Score in a Brothel award goes to...David McGoldrick.😆👍
 

Deadbat

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So...those lower than 6th have to rely on teamwork, holding up the ball, and making runs.
So what's a Liverpool goal consist of aside from that?

Not rely on but these are necessary I feel unless you are banging in goals regularly (Ings) or have real outstanding skill to beat men-pace-power. Our strikers don't have those latter features and dont ecore regularly albeit with few chances so would say the work ethic, hold up and movement are essential? Ideally we'd get players with the former characteristics but you are going to have to spend a fortune to get them.
 

DronnieBlade

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From one DB to another.

Look back on your match analysis and ratings over the entire campaign.

Try and reconcile an overall B rating for a player with a plethora (lots to you) of 3,4 and 5 ratings.

Doesn’t add up 😉.

UTB
 

Deadbat

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From one DB to another.

Look back on your match analysis and ratings over the entire campaign.

Try and reconcile an overall B rating for a player with a plethora (lots to you) of 3,4 and 5 ratings.

Doesn’t add up 😉.

UTB

Which player/s in particular are you referring to in terms of discreiancies? Which player ratings do you disagree with?

My averages are coming out tomorrow. For the most part they match up with my grades but a few averages surprised me a bit. I am a tough marker and don't just give 6-8 for the majority of the team like the tabloids do.
 

DronnieBlade

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Which player/s in particular are you referring to in terms of discreiancies? Which player ratings do you disagree with?

My averages are coming out tomorrow. For the most part they match up with my grades but a few averages surprised me a bit. I am a tough marker and don't just give 6-8 for the majority of the team like the tabloids do.
Then it’s the averages that (assuming you’re addition is correct), I will find more than interesting.

Averaging 5.15 DOES NOT equate to a B in my book !!

UTB
 

robbiez666

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Some generous scores for our strikers DB!

We've been very poor upfront and, as you say, easily the weakest aspect of our game (and also not all the fault of the strikers).

I'd go:

OM as C. two or three games he looked really good but more games he looked incredibly lightweight and out of his depth. Mostly ok but will improve with experience. Needs to sort out his idiocy off-field and get into a gym and bulk up. He needs to be in double figures next season.
DM as a B- - Great link up play and we're a much better team with him playing but you can't play at this level and miss that many chances. He needs to do better or he becomes a liability. He needs to be in high single figures next season.
LM as a C- - Had some brilliant games and won us points on his own. At other times he's looked disinterested and half-hearted. He's had dreadful bad luck on a personal level which would affect anyone. However, the amount of knocks he gets and his generally appalling levels of fitness are not good enough. Someone at this level who is unable to play 90 minutes is a liability. He needs to go if that can't improve that. We only have 25 squad players and we already have Sharp to carry.
BS - D - Generally looked out of his depth. Tries hard and puts himself about but not at the level needed. A few times his sheer determination and application has generated rewards. He's an ok 5th choice at this level and clearly has a good impact on the squad. Giving him two years is really odd. As it is with DM. That's two players out of a 25 who might be liabilities in two season's time.
CR - D- Had a couple of great games but largely looked like a rabbit in the headlights who didn't know what he was meant to be doing. He looks like a wide forward or a winger, not a striker. Perplexing signing. I suspect a top Championship side might come in for him but I feel we'll only get 50% of what we paid for him.
RZ - D- The lad tries and puts effort in but he looks fairly clueless. It's perhaps unfair to judge him on limited cameos but the fact he's behind Sharp speaks volumes. I've seen nothing to suggest that we should sign him.
LC - He'll forever be popular with us and in a season where he's been largely outside the squad he looks like he's kept in trim, and fair play for that. I think he's a decent signing for a mid-table Championship side but he needs to play regularly to be effective. The kind of player who plays himself into form. He's be an excellent signing for the S6 lot.
 

Keen Blade

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You say LM faded around Xmas/NY.
At a rough guess this is when his gf will have discovered her pregnancy.
Such a huge event in the life of a young man who works & lives in another country.
I reckon this situation will have played on his mind ever since.
Bringing gf & baby to the UK must be a daunting prospect at the best of times , but at the time of Brexit & Covid even moreso.
He must surely be considering a return to France.
 

Balham Blade

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Sorry Deadbat but you can't class the officials correctly interpreting the current handball rules as favourable decisions our way. The Rice and Moura calls should be officials correct.

The fact that the law is wrong is inconsequential.
 

Deadbat

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Sorry Deadbat but you can't class the officials correctly interpreting the current handball rules as favourable decisions our way. The Rice and Moura calls should be officials correct.

The fact that the law is wrong is inconsequential.

If you re read I made it clear if you read the section before the analysis why I had made opinions like I had.

My analysis was not about the rules or VAR's decisions being technically correct as that is boring!

My take was as I said about if we had a football utopia where refs could make calls based on common sense and rules were changed to reflect this. I said it was a different take on things.

I stand by those handball were ludicrous as the rules are ludicrous. In that sense they went for us. Technically they were right but I'm not sure they should be at all.

This analysis was also disregarding miniature on VAR like McGoldrick/Mousset goals (which technically were also correct but no way goal a initially given should be gone back and chalked off for toenails being offside). Technically on the evidence given they were rightly offside but his rule needs changing perhaps too. If the goal is given and there is nothing clear and obvious (takes over 30 secs) then like cricket it stays with the officials decision (on or offside).
 

Balham Blade

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If you re read I made it clear if you read the section before the analysis why I had made opinions like I had.

My analysis was not about the rules or VAR's decisions being technically correct as that is boring!

My take was as I said about if we had a football utopia where refs could make calls based on common sense and rules were changed to reflect this. I said it was a different take on things.

I stand by those handball were ludicrous as the rules are ludicrous. In that sense they went for us. Technically they were right but I'm not sure they should be at all.

This analysis was also disregarding miniature on VAR like McGoldrick/Mousset goals (which technically were also correct but no way goal a initially given should be gone back and chalked off for toenails being offside). Technically on the evidence given they were rightly offside but his rule needs changing perhaps too. If the goal is given and there is nothing clear and obvious (takes over 30 secs) then like cricket it stays with the officials decision (on or offside).
We'll have to agree to disagree. The point-in-time nature of offside decisions means that the current implementation of VAR isn't going to allow marginal decisions to be made correctly whereas the absolute nature of the handball law means those decisions can be.

That notwithstanding, thank you for your reports this season; they've been invaluable as ever fruit this exiled part-timer
 

LoughboroBlade

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Our strikers last time we were in the Prem:
Hulse: 28(1), 8 goals
Stead: 12(2), 5 goals
Webber: 13(9), 3 goals
Nade: 7(18), 3 goals
Shelton: 2(2), 0 goals
Akinbiyi: 2(1), 0 goals
Kabba: 0(7), 0 goals

It’s not actually that dissimilar to this season. We need to address that. You could argue that we might continue to be superb defensively in the coming seasons, and perhaps that would be fine. But Bournemouth’s a warning for not sorting an end of the pitch year on year and being over reliant on another – each of their season’s in the Prem they conceded over 60, and were reliant on scoring enough to compensate for that. We can’t rely on our defence being faultless – we need to make us more of a threat up front. And I’ve no doubt that will be a central focus this summer.
 

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The fans




Finally, a word for the fans. We have managed to see an average of over 30,000 at home and almost every away game was full – in fact I think we sold out for every away game did we not in the league? We saw the team drop off a bit after lockdown and this showed how important and what a lift we can give to the team – ironically though we did quite well at home though even with no fans. There were some quiet/down games at home but for the most part it was loud and supportive and some of the bigger games the place was jumping – Arsenal, Man Utd etc. Seeing a packed, sold out home or away crowd and a great deal of noise and pride in what we are supporting was magical. It was what we all have been waiting for. Just a great time to be a Blade and shame Covid has put a block on things as would be fantastic to still be going week in, week out. Hope we can all get back soon and be there every week. I miss so much the pre and post game (especially after we win) and had some fantastic away days (thanks to Webding for his company/humour etc) watching United this season. It is without doubt the best ever time to be a Blade and hope when we all start being able to attend then we can get back to properly backing this incredible manager and team.

Grade A
Absolute pleasure, loved following this Wilder team around the country and through the divisions with you. We always used to say it was a great day out spoiled by two hours at the ground, but this last four years has changed all that.

Still think you’ve been too easy on some of the strikers here though. Is it old age or a good season that’s softening you?
 

hello

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Mousset getting a B.
Absolutely incredible.
Fucking hell if there was one decent striker at the club you'd give him A plus.
 

Deadbat

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Mousset getting a B.
Absolutely incredible.
Fucking hell if there was one decent striker at the club you'd give him A plus.

He was really good from Sept to Dec and so key to what we did - same way Lundstram was. We forget he still finished leading scorer and leading assist man. Not sure what it says about the rest.

Maybe it is more a B-/C+ and every striker possibly is a touch high. I am not sure anyone outside of the main 4 should be lower than a C but noone should be higher than a B. Maybe I have been a bit positive but would only take them down slightly. Possibly Sharp is a C+, Mousset a B- and McBurnie a B- but I would not change them massively.

We do need to improve hugely in this dept though.
 

pommpey

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Christ. Can some people just contextualise Deadbat's assessments and see them for what they are - his opinion?

Disagree please. It's a forum. But play the fucking ball. If he has got it wrong (in your opinion) then tailor your answer with evidence which shows why you think he is wrong.

It's a common approach on here to get muscular with people who take the time to contribute with vey well crafted (but may not be what you see) postings.

Anyway, I agree broadly with what you say DB however I do think that our strikers, whichever combination, spend far too much time outside the box either chasing hopeful balls into the channels (and getting pressed and dispossessed) or dropping to become part of the midfield build up. As we don't have a versatile striker who can run at or through defences or physically create the space to shoot accurately from outside the box, all of our goals from them look similar. We are also desperately short of penalties created by fouls on the frontmen. Our goals though have been mainly (if not all) from inside the penalty area (with rare exceptions). Look at the ones which the strikers have scored and save for Mousses against MUFC, they have all been close range. So if that is how they are scoring, how do we facilitate that?

Clever work from Fleck, Stevens, Baldock and the rest of the supporting midfield/wingbacks has been instrumental but, with the formation we have, we usually have Norwood sat directly in front (if not at times alongside) the back three and he rarely ventures past a line between the centre circle and penalty D. This I understand if the flying Centre Backs are advanced - he does provide the 'third player' if possession is lost and the opposition starts a quick counter attack. He has done this a few times and very effectively (see, I can say summat positive about him). So really, apart from him finding front men with a long punt, he is (in the usual 5-3-2 setup) not so much a player who is an 'assist' for the front men.

But the rest, RWB, RCM, LCM, LWB, are the sources of the front men getting their chances. For us to be more effective next season we need to keep the font two in the box, or settle for one target man (such as McBurnie) and two Attacking Midfiedlers playing off him either side. McGoldrick could do this (with limitations) and maybe L Freeman, but the rest of the line up needs adjustment. For us to be more effective and find those players and not give opposition defences an easy game by dragging our attacking threat out of the danger area we need to modify the 5-3-2 to maybe 4-3-2-1 or 4-2-3-1. That upsets the '5' at the back that has been our trademark and our way of facilitating the CBs to push on and overload, but since the lockdown, that tactic has seemingly been sussed out and our route to goal has been shut off. Opposition defences basically shepherd us into the crossing zone and nail us in. The ball goes backwards, their defence resets and waits for possession to change and they go on the counter. We lack a route in from the centre section, a pass or a run into the box which gives defences no option but to draw in and challenge and leave space behind.

Against Spurs at home (and Chelsea to some extent) we found it easy to 'play our game'. But against Leicester, Newcastle and even Villa, we struggled to find the front two and put them on the back foot and more crucially, get a shot/header in on goal.

pommpey
 

Espania blade

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Everything is subjective, for the record I think you got this one about right.
The only thing I would pick you up on is "next season" and what happens in the striker department so I'm going to sound like a broken record and say we will (might) have a completely different style of play, with a slight change of personnel, some of the players that have been "blooded" into the first team might begin to play a larger part, CW has often said "he is always thinking about now, the middle term, and long term" I fully expect Osborn to be a regular starter for instance and if we can keep Lunny then he will be a big player for us, his all round quality and potential to suddenly appear in or around the box is under estimated, in terms of what he brings to the team he is up there with our "back three" (admittedly on his day, and he does have a few to many "not his day" performances) - you can tell I'm a big fan of Lunny 😁

Anyways, I think we will be in for a few surprises this time around.

Smashing report, loved reading it.
 

Espania blade

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Christ. Can some people just contextualise Deadbat's assessments and see them for what they are - his opinion?

Disagree please. It's a forum. But play the fucking ball. If he has got it wrong (in your opinion) then tailor your answer with evidence which shows why you think he is wrong.

It's a common approach on here to get muscular with people who take the time to contribute with vey well crafted (but may not be what you see) postings.

Anyway, I agree broadly with what you say DB however I do think that our strikers, whichever combination, spend far too much time outside the box either chasing hopeful balls into the channels (and getting pressed and dispossessed) or dropping to become part of the midfield build up. As we don't have a versatile striker who can run at or through defences or physically create the space to shoot accurately from outside the box, all of our goals from them look similar. We are also desperately short of penalties created by fouls on the frontmen. Our goals though have been mainly (if not all) from inside the penalty area (with rare exceptions). Look at the ones which the strikers have scored and save for Mousses against MUFC, they have all been close range. So if that is how they are scoring, how do we facilitate that?

Clever work from Fleck, Stevens, Baldock and the rest of the supporting midfield/wingbacks has been instrumental but, with the formation we have, we usually have Norwood sat directly in front (if not at times alongside) the back three and he rarely ventures past a line between the centre circle and penalty D. This I understand if the flying Centre Backs are advanced - he does provide the 'third player' if possession is lost and the opposition starts a quick counter attack. He has done this a few times and very effectively (see, I can say summat positive about him). So really, apart from him finding front men with a long punt, he is (in the usual 5-3-2 setup) not so much a player who is an 'assist' for the front men.

But the rest, RWB, RCM, LCM, LWB, are the sources of the front men getting their chances. For us to be more effective next season we need to keep the font two in the box, or settle for one target man (such as McBurnie) and two Attacking Midfiedlers playing off him either side. McGoldrick could do this (with limitations) and maybe L Freeman, but the rest of the line up needs adjustment. For us to be more effective and find those players and not give opposition defences an easy game by dragging our attacking threat out of the danger area we need to modify the 5-3-2 to maybe 4-3-2-1 or 4-2-3-1. That upsets the '5' at the back that has been our trademark and our way of facilitating the CBs to push on and overload, but since the lockdown, that tactic has seemingly been sussed out and our route to goal has been shut off. Opposition defences basically shepherd us into the crossing zone and nail us in. The ball goes backwards, their defence resets and waits for possession to change and they go on the counter. We lack a route in from the centre section, a pass or a run into the box which gives defences no option but to draw in and challenge and leave space behind.

Against Spurs at home (and Chelsea to some extent) we found it easy to 'play our game'. But against Leicester, Newcastle and even Villa, we struggled to find the front two and put them on the back foot and more crucially, get a shot/header in on goal.

pommpey

Agree with all of that.
 

Deaneandagana

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Leon Clarke Clarke seems like the player who will always be here no matter what. He was one of Wilder’s first signings and has been here throughout the journey. Doing well to end the 16-17 season and then having a superb 17-18 season and proving many of his doubters wrong with a prolific season and a real scoring spree mid-season. He scored the famous double at Hillsborough and at one stage Villa were seriously linked with a big 4 or 5-million-pound signing with his contract status up in the air. He of course resigned with us as a reward for his strong play and then did tail off after this but still finished as our leading scorer with 19 goals and made the PFA team of the year. When McGoldrick came in, him, Sharp and Clarke rotated the first few months before the Billy and Didzy formed such a great partnership. Clarke struggled for goals but did get a vital one at Brentford. He eventually ended up at Wigan on loan and of course helped his loan club in a vital win at Leeds and was seen in some of the end of season videos with the players and went to Las Vegas.



He ended up being transfer listed which was not a surprise with us looking for younger and better-quality players but nobody signed him. His contract was probably quite prohibitive for many Championship or League One clubs so he stayed around; playing in a few league cup games and was named in our 25th man in the Premier League squad. Incredibly with a few injuries he made the bench against Liverpool and then nearly scored a late leveller but blazed over (might have been offside if it went to VAR) in his Premier League debut at 34 years of age. He played and scored v Fylde but you thought he may move on but it never happened and whenever you saw social media of the team training, there he was with his gloves on. He grew some hair in lockdown and remained with the club as his contract ran down but got a cameo for the Southampton game which was good to see.



Overall, he has been an important part of the last 4 years (well 3 as not really involved this year) and those first 2 years, his contributions cannot be forgotten. He is another that when he signed, most United fan were not sure at all citing his Wednesday connections and the number of clubs/inconsistency but he actually might have had the best spell of his career in a 9-10-month period from April 2017 to Dec/Jan 2018 where he could not stop scoring. He looked a fast, mobile striker who was unplayable for a period and many United fans will remember this fondly. He goes with United’s fans best wishes and sure he will go and have a final year or two down the leagues and his know how will net him quite a few more goals.



Grade D+ (Last season C-)



Richairo Zivkovic Like Retsos, another left field signing; who came in not long after the more heralded Berge signing. Zivkovic has played for four clubs in Holland and two in Belgium and then went to China all before the age of 23. He had been seen as a real protégé as a youngster and clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona supposedly after him when he burst onto the scene at Groningen, his first club. He went to Ajax and then played for their development side scoring a number of goals but ended up in Oostende. He scored 12 in 50 but then he went to the other side of the world and the Chinese league and signed for Changchun Yatai. Of course, the standard over here is up for debate but he did net 15 in 25. When we signed him, it seemed lots of videos being shown evidenced his pace but maybe lack of composure in front of goal. Although one goal where he runs the length of the field certainly excited some Blades fans. With a number of strikers in front of him, it was always going to be hard for him to feature too much but the lockdown seemed to provide him chance to get fully match fit and acclimatised to the country and his new team. He ended up coming on for a few of the losses with the games lost but looked a bit headless chicken in those opening games. He then did quite well v Wolves with a few bits and pieces and came on and did a few more ok bits but then looked woeful in a losing effort at Southampton. Not sure we saw enough of him with the ball but he only had limited chances. We have an option to buy so be interested to see if this is taken up but I would think not if I had to take a punt as he has not shown enough to me – when we had strikers in poor form – he still did not get a start which says it all.



Grade C (Last season NA)



Next season




The weakest part of our team. The stats show that. Lowest amount of shots and lowest amount on target. 20th in both category. It’s not all down to the strikers and sure, we play a certain way where we are solid and won’t create tons of chances but we do have to improve here. The odds are we won’t be quite as solid next year and won’t have as many clean sheets/concede so few so have to get better in other areas and find more goals. Yes, the other areas (centre backs and midfield) need to score more but Lundstram/Fleck/Norwood/Berge did ok with 11 goals for a mid-table side (where we finished). We need to find more of a reliable goal threat up here. I know we had a striker by committee approach and moved from Robinson-McGoldrick to McGoldrick-McBurnie to McGoldrick-Mousset and then Sharp-McBurnie and then McGoldrick-McBurnie again. I think the best partnership was Mousset-McGoldrick but that ship may have sailed (see above). Not sure any really gelled completely – maybe they had spells but we need to improve.



McBurnie with 6, Mousset with 6, McGoldrick with 2 and Sharp with 3 and Robinson with 1 and Zivkovic with 0; that is 18 goals between around 76 starts between them and around 30 sub appearances. That is not really enough. There are some lower teams lucky to have an Ings type and most leading scorers are not actually too much more but all have a player they can look at for 10+ goals. At the moment not sure we can. The reason why most have been rotated is not down to just fitness and number of games but more down to the fact non were that consistent in how they played/scored. They all did well at times but it was up and down. McGoldrick was our most consistent performer and the one we seemed to do better when he played but did not score so we had to compensate for that.



Not sure Zivkovic has shown enough to stay around so expect him will leave. Mousset may move on but maybe not and we will wait and see what happens and I do not really see Robinson being involved that much if he stays and actually think he will move again on loan if WBA do not sign him.



Sharp has nicked a few but I was surprised he got a new deal and do not expect him to be involved that much next season. He is a box player who thrives on chances and at this level you don’t get much. Our strikers have to do the hold up, running the lines, nuisance factor etc and not sure with his lack of pace/size he can do that. I am not sure he will be used that much.



So that leaves us with McBurnie and McGoldrick. You expect them to feature a fair bit but if these two started next season as our main strikers most of the time and the defence drop off even a bit we are going to be nearer the bottom than top. We somehow have to improve in this area.



I like both of these players and my main hope is McBurnie can really get more consistent and keep improving as he is the one, we see as the future striker for many years but he has lots to work on and can’t do it 1 in 3 games. In an ideal we would find a link player like Didzy who can score and is younger but they would cost us 100 million!



I expect with those two around and Sharp being used sporadically then if Mousset and Robinson depart we need two more strikers. Ideally one absolute top drawer one but that costs money we have allegedly not got to spend. I also would like us to sign a younger player who has raw pace and can offer us something we do not have as we are too static at the top – a player like Mousset but who is more reliable and can stay fit.



Definitely the area we need to improve on but will take some creativity to do it – I think in the UK players cost a lot and no guarantee – look at main strikers from the league below last season – McBurnie and Maupay who have found goals quite tough and not been regulars every week. We may have to explore the foreign market but then as we have found there is unpredictability as they have to adapt to the UK/this league and our style. It is important that we get the next signing/signings right in this area as if we fail on both then that could see next season become a struggle. This is a key priority maybe more than anywhere else (outside the keeping situation) we have to improve for next season.







Player / Position Years remaining (contract expires) Red this year – Orange next year - Green longer contract –





Forwards






Leon Clarke Out of contract (2020)


David McGoldrick 2 years (2022)

Billy Sharp 2 years (2022)

Lys Mousset 2 years (2022)

Callum Robinson 3 years (2023)

Oliver McBurnie 3 years (2023)






Return to loan clubs:



Richairo Zivkovic back to Changchun Yatai
Excellent as always, although still deeply upset you didn’t give Leon a 10 for his performance vs Hull 😜
 

Champagneblade

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The fans




Finally, a word for the fans. We have managed to see an average of over 30,000 at home and almost every away game was full – in fact I think we sold out for every away game did we not in the league? We saw the team drop off a bit after lockdown and this showed how important and what a lift we can give to the team – ironically though we did quite well at home though even with no fans. There were some quiet/down games at home but for the most part it was loud and supportive and some of the bigger games the place was jumping – Arsenal, Man Utd etc. Seeing a packed, sold out home or away crowd and a great deal of noise and pride in what we are supporting was magical. It was what we all have been waiting for. Just a great time to be a Blade and shame Covid has put a block on things as would be fantastic to still be going week in, week out. Hope we can all get back soon and be there every week. I miss so much the pre and post game (especially after we win) and had some fantastic away days (thanks to Webding for his company/humour etc) watching United this season. It is without doubt the best ever time to be a Blade and hope when we all start being able to attend then we can get back to properly backing this incredible manager and team.

Grade A

Officiating / VAR

Of course, VAR came in and there was a feeling back up by the decisions that we did not get much going for us. It is interesting as the table suggests that but then some of these by the rules were clearly right

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/53553300


This is the official list/breakdown for VAR…taken from ESPN



Sheffield United -5

Overturns:
11
Leading to goals for: 0
Disallowed goals for: 5
Leading to goals against: 1
Disallowed goals against: 2
Net goal score: -4
Subjective decisions for: 1
Subjective decisions against: 2
Net subjective score: -1

Game: Southampton (H; Sept. 14)
Incident: Oliver McBurnie's goal disallowed for offside, 52nd minute - AGAINST



Game:
Tottenham (A; Nov. 9)
Incident: Goal for David McGoldrick disallowed for offside in build-up by John Lundstram, 60th minute - AGAINST



Game:
Newcastle (H; Dec. 5)
Incident: Jonjo Shelvey goal, originally ruled out for offside, cleared by the VAR, 70th minute - AGAINST



Game:
Norwich (A; Dec. 8)
Incident: Red card for Chris Basham rescinded, 74th minute - FOR



Game:
Aston Villa (H; Dec. 14)
Incident: Penalty awarded (missed by Jack Grealish) for handball by John Egan, 76th minute - AGAINST



Game:
Brighton (A; Dec. 21)
Incident: John Egan goal ruled out for handball, 8th minute - AGAINST
Incident: Jack O'Connell goal disallowed for offside, 54th minute - AGAINST



Game:
Manchester City (A; Dec. 29)
Incident: Goal for Lys Mousset ruled out for offside, 29th minute - AGAINST



Game:
West Ham (H; Jan. 10)
Incident: Goal for Robert Snodgrass ruled out for handball in the build-up by Declan Rice, 90th minute - FOR



Game:
Crystal Palace (A; Feb. 1)
Incident: Red card for Joel Ward rescinded, 74th minute - AGAINST



Game: Tottenham (H; July 2)
Incident: Goal for Harry Kane ruled out for handball in the build-up by Lucas Moura, 32nd minute - FOR


----
I do not want to go through every little incident VAR or otherwise but I will go through major incidents and come up with my list of what went against us and for us. Some were clearly due to the rules (West Ham, Spurs) but I am going to do a bit of an Alternative end of season officials / VAR review/table (League only)…..


This is not just on VAR but on major decisions that went against us also – some I may agree with the officials – also I am going to twist it a bit and say some that whilst the rules say handball etc – I think they should be given (so I am not only critiquing VAR but also the rules – granted on the day the officials/VAR have to give due to the rules being in place). So before you start arguing about the rules – the below is in a utopian football world what we should have got and not got!!!

---
Bournemouth (A) – Opening day. Norwood got caught really late by Fraser. It was high and reckless. Should have been a red card. AGAINST
FOR 0 AGAINST 1

Leicester (H)
– A lot felt Egan was pushed in the back on the winning goal. I felt that the player just got up above him and Egan was planted. No United players appealed. Close one this but not sure there was enough contact for a foul. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 0 AGAINST 1

Southampton (H)
– We had a few in this one. McBurnie was offside on the goal (sorry Egan was I believe from the flick on) so on this one OFFICIALS CORRECT. However, Ward Prowse committed a clear handball that VAR somehow did not see as a penalty. AGAINST. The Sharp red seemed more clear cut for a late lunge – looked worse slowed down but not sure he could argue too much. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 0 AGAINST 2

Liverpool (H)
– Mane was fouled quite clearly in the box by Lundstram – it should have been a penalty. FOR
FOR 1 AGAINST 2

Arsenal (H)
– There were appeals for at least one penalty by Arsenal in this game. One was desperate but Egan did grab hold of his shirt at a corner and I felt we got away with that one a bit but then as I said before there is lot of that in the box I feel. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 1 AGAINST 2

Tottenham (A)
– The offside goal on Lundstram was a new quirk of the VAR but even slowed down and looking at it so many times not sure I am convinced he was offside. Also, for me it was a new phase of play. One of the worst we had all season. AGAINST
FOR 1 AGAINST 3

Manchester United (H)
– The McBurnie goal was checked but it looked borderline shoulder/arm. Not sure it was obvious to me that it was a hand and it was right that the goal was given. OFFICALS CORRECT
FOR 1 AGAINST 3

Wolves (A)
– Baldock was very lucky not to get sent off. Already booked and then committed a series of fouls. Not sure how he survived. FOR
FOR 2 AGAINST 3

Newcastle (H)
– This is a hard one as by the letter of the law it was onside and of course that is what VAR is for but I think it was ridiculous that the linesman put his flag up and all the players stopped. You say play to the whistle but the game had almost stopped due to the confusion. I can see why they had too given it but for me this is really hard. Take out VAR and the olden days you would play to the whistle and the referee makes the final call. I am torn between whether this one but if it had been the other way around and we had run through and scored and the ref had stopped the game I would have been livid. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 2 AGAINST 3

Norwich (A)
– One for us and one against us. The one where Bash went through and then Lunny scored was correctly ruled out for offside but it was a penalty. AGAINST. Bash went in late but it was rightly downgraded to a yellow after a review. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 2 AGAINST 4

Aston Villa (A)
– Egan did seem to handball it quite clearly. No issues with the overturn here. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 2 AGAINST 4

Brighton (A)
– Two went against us here. The Egan one for me should have counted – I know it’s the rules but that was not intentional at all. AGAINST The O’Connell one was offside. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 2 AGAINST 4

Watford (H)
– Clear trip on Baldock for only penalty of the season. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 2 AGAINST 4

Manchester City (A)
– A few bad ones this day. I felt the Mousset one much like the Lundstram one you could not say for definite and the angles where the lines drawn were all wrong. I am not sure City would have complained if it had gone in our favour but another one of those close VAR decisions where the freeze frame of when the ball left Fleck’s feet and the angle can make it look on or offside in my opinion. These are the sort that need to be goals. AGAINST. The same game the ref gets in Fleck’s way. He could have used common sense and blown up and had a drop ball. City again would not have complained. He literally set up the goal! Unfortunate yes and technically the rules say nothing wrong but a quicker ref can stop that and avoid any issues AGAINST
FOR 2 AGAINST 6

West Ham (H)
– Yes, it was a great moment and yes the rules say it should be a handball but the rules are ridiculous. It should have counted. FOR
FOR 3 AGAINST 6

Manchester City (H)
– An awful Besic tackle but for me right to be yellow and a daft trip by Bash in the box. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 3 AGAINST 6

Crystal Palace (A)
– We had the goal over the line clearly (Hawkeye worked for us here!) and then Baldock actually once again was lucky to survive after a yellow and another cynical foul on Zaha. FOR. We then had the Ward red card which was rightly overturned. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 4 AGAINST 6

Brighton (H) –
There was an appeal for a red for a high foot from Lundstram but not sure it was intentional and would not have seen the player Dunk coming. OFFICIALS CORRECT
FOR 4 AGAINST 6

Aston Villa (A)
– Nothing more needs to be said. Hawkeye failed and it cost us a goal. AGAINST
FOR 4 AGAINST 7

Newcastle (A)
– The Egan first booking was a bit of a nonsense and then he gets a second which was right but a poor first decision by the ref. AGAINST
FOR 4 AGAINST 8

Tottenham (H)
– See West Ham. The rules were applied correctly. The rules are a joke and to me if football had common sense this would be a goal every day of the week. FOR
FOR 5 AGAINST 8

Burnley (A
) – Clear handball against Peters. No idea why this was not given. AGAINST.
FOR 5 AGAINST 9

I may have missed a few but think above about covers the main ones – the big ones going against us were Lundstram with the offside, the Newcastle controversy at home and the Villa one of course. We had a few others go against us of course. The big ones that went for us were the two hand balls in the attack (and McBurnie’s). Technically these were correct but we also were lucky not to lose Baldock in 2 games we took 4 points from.
If you say Newcastle and Spurs results still end the same as the margin was more than one goal, I know you can argue otherwise but you are looking at officials short changing us by 6 points there. So I don't buy this 'evens itself out nonsense', especially when you see Man U top of VAR and getting a record number of spot kicks. This cost us 6th spot.
 

Revolution

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I don't normally get picky on marks and I know Robinson didn't do much for us, but how can he be worth a lower mark than Zivkovic?

Robinson scored a goal and got 2 assists, both vital ones that won us points against teams that qualified for the CL.

Zivkovic did absolutely nothing. He didn't even have a shot, let alone a shot on target.

(good stuff generally as usual though)
 

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