Sheffield United finished last season competing for a place in Europe but they already find themselves entrenched at the bottom of the Premier League table, without a win after eight games in 2020-21.
Their one-point return at this stage of the competition is the lowest total in Premier League history, alongside Manchester City in 1995-96, Southampton in 1998-99, Sheffield Wednesday in 1999- 00 and Sunderland in 2013-14.
Two of those other four teams were relegated at the end of the campaign.
“We have to fight. No one is going to give us anything. It’s the big test, ”manager Chris Wilder told BBC Sport after the Blades. beat Chelsea 4-1 the Saturday.
David McGoldrick had put the visitors ahead – just the second time they’ve led this season – but goals from Tammy Abraham, Ben Chilwell, Thiago Silva and Timo Werner saw them comfortably.
So what’s wrong with Sheffield United? What are they doing differently this season? And can they make a difference?
How does it compare to the start of last season
It’s the Blades’ worst start in the league under Wilder.
They tallied nine points in their first eight games last season after being promoted from the championship, scoring seven and conceding seven.
But they have already scored twice as many goals in 2020-21 than they had at this point last season and have only scored four times.
Saturday’s loss was their fourth on the road this season – they collected 21 of their 54 away points in 2019-20.
Thirteen of those points came against the so-called ‘big six’ teams – they took four points apiece from Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, and drew at home against Manchester United.
However, the Bramall Lane club have already lost to Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea in the past five weeks.
They also only led this campaign for 42 minutes and have already lost six points from winning positions. They lost nine in total last season.
“Injuries really hurt them and the new players are struggling, but overall on Saturday they were nowhere near the match in terms of competition,” said Jermaine Jenas, Match of the Day specialist.
“There is a lot of panic in the team. They started out well but they just got worse. They weren’t conceding single goals last season and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Chris Wilder has a lot of work to do. “
|Sheffield United 0-2 Loups||Aston Villa 1-0 Sheffield United|
|Sheffield United 0-1 Leeds United||Arsenal 2-1 Sheffield United|
|Sheffield United 1-1 Fulham||Liverpool 2-1 Sheffield United|
|Sheffield United 0-1 Manchester City||Chelsea 4-1 Sheffield United|
Bad shape and a difficult fixture series
Sheffield United’s fixtures at the start of 2020-2021 have been less favorable.
They had only faced Chelsea and Liverpool as recognized “big six” before Matchday 9 last season and two of the teams they played in those first eight games – Bournemouth and Watford – were relegated at the end of the season. campaign.
However, the Blades have already been beaten by promoted Leeds United side and have been tied at home by Fulham, who had lost every game so far. They will travel to West Brom, who are 18th ahead of their game against Tottenham on Sunday, at the end of the month.
“Our season will not be decided on games against players like Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea. It will be against the teams around us and that is what we need to focus on, ”Wilder told BBC Sport.
“I don’t like to be ‘almost’ – and we can’t afford to be in the next 10 games. “
Injuries to key players and inconsistencies
In addition to a few tough games, the Blades suffered injuries to key midfielder John Fleck and defenseman Jack O’Connell, who may be missing. the rest of the season after making 33 Premier League appearances in 2019-20.
Striker Lys Mousset – top scorer last season – has yet to appear in 2020-21 due to injury and goalkeeper Dean Henderson is back at Manchester United after his loan spell ended.
Wilder also expressed his frustration with John Lundstram’s rejection of a new contract, while new forwards Rhian Brewster and Oliver Burke have yet to hit the ground.
“We need to fill in a few gaps right now,” Wilder said on Saturday.
“For a promoted team to show up, you have to have ball balance and consistency in the selection. We haven’t had that this season because of injuries and form.
“You have to have players who know the system at a breakneck pace and have that attitude before games. Unfortunately, at the moment, this is not the case. “
Match-of-the-day specialist Tim Cahill expects them to get out of trouble: “I think they’ve had enough in their locker with their manager – he’s a strong character. “
- Watch 13 first round matches on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app this weekend. Learn more here.