Premier League transfer window: Who should Sheffield United sign?
Last Updated: 17/05/19 10:16am
Sheffield United are back in the Premier League after 12 years away but Chris Wilder's approach in the transfer market looks set to be evolution rather than revolution.
While an off-field battle for control of the club has escalated to the High Court, the Blades boss has already got to work reshaping his squad for the 2019/20 top-flight challenge, releasing or transfer-listing 12 players since promotion was confirmed.
What do the Blades need for their return to the big time and who could strengthen Wilder's ranks? Read on to find out...
The pundit's verdict
David Prutton: "It is so unique the way the team has been put together, you can't crack it open by bringing so many personalities in that might knock the rhythm of the team. Similar to Norwich, they are nowhere near 95 per cent of the Premier League clubs financially. It is always good if you can bring a goalscorer in but goalscorers come at a premium.
"I get the feeling that Sheffield United are going to go about the Premier League the same way they've gone about the Championship, not going gung-ho but showing people how they go about playing football in that expansive way. If you're looking at genuine, game-changing players then they could do with that.
"They've got players who have done it in League One, who have done it in the Championship and now this will be a huge test of players who, with the greatest respect, wouldn't have tasted Premier League football with actually getting promoted themselves.
"It is a balancing act but goalscorers, quick defenders - that's the difference between the Premier League and the Championship; there are seriously quick defensive units that don't offer you the chances that a Championship defence might do. From Chris Wilder's point of view, the power struggle at the top of the club could have an effect, too - what funds will he have available? I think he's given himself as big a chance as possible of being able to mould that club as he sees fit so far."
What do the stats say?
On-loan Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson was key for the Blades last season: he played in all 46 league games, recording a joint league-high 21 clean sheets.
But only four members of the current Sheffield United squad have Premier League experience. Billy Sharp made two appearances with Southampton in 2012/13, Enda Stevens featured just seven times for Aston Villa and Chris Basham played 21 matches for Bolton and Blackpool, with Richard Stearman's 77 appearances for Wolves coming almost a decade ago.
Wilder has talked about recruiting "young, hungry players"; only Middlesbrough and Bolton had a higher average squad age than Sheffield United last season (27.3 years).
The Blades scored 14 per cent of their goals from inside the six-yard box - a joint league-high with Millwall. Will Billy Sharp get enough of those sorts of chances next season?
The manager's view
Chris Wilder: "We're not going to change our identity," Wilder told Sky Sports. "The recruitment is massive for us - we can't afford many mistakes. Four of five of the lads that came from League One are a great inspiration. There are some brilliant stories in the squad and I want to make sure they get an opportunity as well. I'm not going to rip apart a team that's gone well."
Outlining his transfer strategy in a recent briefing with chief executive Stephen Bettis, Wilder added: "We want to invest in young players who can step up to this level and fit in with the core of the group who have got us here.
"We've not had the ability to put three or four scouts in every country in Europe because obviously that's a cost. We don't shy away from foreign players, but they would have to fit into the togetherness and mentality of what we've created. It's suited us when we've gone British and I don't think we're going to veer away from that too much.
"The last thing I would ever do is put the club's future in danger with a boom and bust scenario. I think the approach will be a sensible and pragmatic one. We will still try to get value for money, but we will still try to improve."
What we know - the Sky Sports News insight
Keith James: "Top of the list is luring young goalkeeper Dean Henderson back to Bramall Lane for a second year - or even sign the England U21 international on a permanent deal. Wilder has already held talks with Manchester United chiefs, with Henderson making it clear in Sheffield United's extended promotion celebrations that he wants to stay with the Blades for another campaign.
"Despite another amazing season and 24 goals for club captain Billy Sharp - plus a player of the season award for strike partner David McGoldrick - United are considering several striking options to supplement their ranks following the departures of Scott Hogan, Gary Madine and Conor Washington, with fellow strikers Leon Clarke and Ched Evans transfer-listed.
"Wilder is expected to invest in competition for midfielders Oliver Norwood and John Fleck. Kieran Dowell's return to Everton means the Blades will be looking for a creative spark, with Birmingham City's Jota one player under consideration.
"United supporters should anticipate evolution, rather than revolution. In his three years in charge, Wilder has remained frugal - with £3.5m on Brentford central defender John Egan being his only major expenditure. The riches of the Premier League will add to United's coffers, but Wilder has promised, wherever possible, to stick by those players who gained promotion."
Which positions are they targeting?
Open to strengthening in all positions apart from centre-back, but strikers and attacking midfielders are key.
- Insight: Who should Liverpool sign?
- Insight: Who should Man City sign?
- Insight: Who should Man Utd sign?
- Insight: Who should Newcastle sign?
- Insight: Who should Norwich sign?