Due to the spread of COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus, the Premier League has decided to postpone games for the foreseeable future. As the planet deals with the pandemic, no one is quite sure when we will see teams back on the field with fans in the stands. This has been dreadful news for players and supporters alike, who already miss having matches on a weekly basis.
Every club in the country is dealing with this issue separately, with some really impacted by the hiatus. That’s especially true for Sheffield United, who could suffer as a result of the break.
Loss of form
United were riding high before the imposed hiatus.
They had won five out of their last six games in all competitions, and had climbed up to 7th place in the Premier League standings, with a game in hand on their top four rivals.
The Blades had also found their scoring touch. Struggling at the start of the season, most of their attackers were misfiring going forward. They couldn’t find the net on a consistent enough basis, which cost them on some occasions.
That changed, as United scored in all of the six games mentioned prior. Club captain Billy Sharp was especially lethal, as he got three of his own in that span. They weren’t grabbing goals for fun, to be fair, but they weren’t being blanked either. It was enough to get the job done.
Meanwhile, the defense was as stellar as ever. The back five were stifling opposing forwards time and time again, and the clean sheets just kept piling up. As a result, Dean Henderson jumped up to joint-second in the race for the Golden Glove.
That could all be out the window with this hiatus. Without playing for so long, it will be like the team has gone through another offseason. The Blades won’t even be able to train for the foreseeable future, so players will have to workout at home.
Once the season eventually resumes, it’ll take time for everyone to kick back into gear.
The secret is out
United had been a revelation in the Premier League up until this point.
Manager Chris Wilder's innovative system was something teams had never seen before. A 3-5-2 formation was already rare enough to see, but the little tweaks made by Wilder were what made it truly special.
Wide centerbacks Chris Basham and Jack O’Connell would constantly push forward and make overlapping runs, meaning opposing defenses had another body to worry about. The pair would either put in crosses or get on the end of them, adding a new dynamic to the Blades attack.
Other teams just didn’t know how to deal with it. They were overwhelmed at the back due to the amount of players rushing forward. Even when the overlapping centerbacks were dealt with, space then opened up for United’s midfielders and strikers.
The Blades were more than just a clever tactic, of course, but it was key in them climbing up the standings. However, the rest of the league now has a lot more time to figure out the system. Managers across the country will be bunkered down at home watching old game footage, taking notes on how to stop United.
Time will tell if they can actually do it, but there’s a chance the opposition will finally be able to figure out Wilder’s strategy.
No injuries to recover from
This break is a silver lining for some teams who have been hampered by injury issues.
Manchester United is a prime example. Before this all happened, the Red Devils were playing without star names Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, with the latter likely to miss the remainder of the campaign. However, since they’ve got some more time before their next game, United should at least have one of the two return once the break is finally over.
It’s a similar story for Tottenham Hotspur, who were in the midst of a full blown injury crisis. They didn’t have a single healthy striker to choose from, with Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, and Steven Bergwijn all unavailable for selection before the hiatus. Now, Spurs will benefit from them coming back before their next game.
The same can’t be said for Sheffield United though. They were lucky enough to not have any players out of action beforehand, but that now means they won’t be gaining anything from this break. It’s far from a bad thing, of course, but other teams are getting better, in theory, while the Blades are stood still.
Supporters will just have to hope players are staying active and not getting rusty. They shouldn’t have to be too worried though, as United have shown hunger throughout the season, motivated to prove their doubters wrong.
It’ll be tough, but the Blades will still back their chances of ending the campaign in a European qualifying spot.