After a “Cinderella Story” season in 2019/2020, Sheffield United will be in a horror story this season as they will be fighting relegation. Sheffield just gained promotion last year and fought for a European spot all the way to the end in one of the best seasons for a newly promoted side ever.
Last season, Sheffield excelled by having gritty, hardworking players who all fed off each other and the raucous crowd at Bramall Lane. They used all this to have just enough to get results; winning games by usually only one goal or by scraping a draw out. Manager Chris Wilder squeezed the team to its pulp last season, and it showed during Project Restart.
After the COVID-19 break in action, Sheffield began to struggle. Fans were not allowed into the stands for safety reasons, and Sheffield lost their mojo. Of the remaining possible 30 points Sheffield could have picked up, they only grabbed 11.
In games since the restart, Sheffield United finished 13th behind teams such as Brighton and West Ham who were in the relegation battle last season. West Ham, in particular, has a much more talented team than Sheffield United.
Another interesting development is with goalie Dean Henderson. Henderson is on loan from Manchester United and is rumored to be returning to Old Trafford as a David de Gea replacement. Henderson was one of the best goalies this past season and helped Wilder’s Sheffield United side. Henderson finished second in the Premier League on save percentage, as he stopped 73% of the shots he saw. He also kept the third most clean sheets in the league with 13.
His replacement might be Aaron Ramsdale from the relegated AFC Bournemouth side. Bournemouth recently accepted Sheffield’s bid for Ramsdale, and it looks like a sure shot that Ramsdale will be at Bramall Lane in the 2020/2021 season. Unfortunately for Sheffield, the drop-off statistically is immense.
Ramsdale finished 16th in the Premier League on save percentage as he saved a poor 66% of the shots he faced. That is a seven-point difference from Henderson. When looking at clean sheets, Ramsdale finished 17th with five, although he played for a worse side.
Looking at this season, Sheffield returns a very similar team with possibly a worse goalkeeper. As the season will likely start absent of fans in the stands once again, Sheffield could begin on their backfoot. Fans are rumored to be allowed to return around October or November, but with the unpredictability of COVID-19, the absence of fans could extend into 2021.
In addition to that, newly promoted side Leeds United looks to be a mid-table contender themselves. Leeds finished with 93 points in the Championship last season: a ten-point gap from second place.
Leeds also has a great manager who studies his opponents down to the fine details. Marcelo Bielsa was an influencer of Pep Guardiola as Bielsa plays a strong possession type of game creating many chances.
Also, teams like Everton and Southampton, which were successful after the restart, are likely to jump Sheffield. Everton began to come into its own under Carlo Ancelotti and players like Richarlison began to excel. Southampton took 18 out of 27 possible points since the restart, finishing third in the table in that span. They did not play mediocre teams either; as Southampton got results against Manchester United and Manchester City.
All this coming together could cause Sheffield United to have an extreme fall this season. No one expected them to compete as well as they did last season, and now the “Cinderella” team could become one of the evil stepsisters in a relegation to the Championship.
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