Fulham boss Marco Silva has revealed he isn’t surprised Sheffield United are now starting to pick up results, citing their squad depth as a reason why as he spoke to the Sheffield Star.
His Cottagers and the Blades faced each other at Craven Cottage on Monday night, with Iliman Ndiaye’s solo effort proving to be decisive as the visitors’ defence stood up bravely and managed to keep the division’s top goalscorer Aleksandar Mitrovic at bay.
Although the west London outfit came into this game as favourites after losing just one of their 11 home league matches this term, Paul Heckingbottom’s men were in their own good run of form having gone unbeaten in their last four league games, a run they extended to five with their 1-0 victory earlier this week.
Quiz: Can you remember Sheffield United’s last 16 Boxing Day results?
This consistency has been missing for the majority of the Blades’ 2021/22 campaign thus far, struggling to adapt to former manager Slavisa Jokanovic’s 4-2-3-1 system and being unable to hit the ground running in the second tier after failing to sign any new players in time for the beginning of the season.
Nonetheless, they managed to retain the majority of their squad in the summer, with Aaron Ramsdale proving to be the South Yorkshire outfit’s only high-profile departure as the likes of Sander Berge and George Baldock remained at Bramall Lane.
The options they have at their disposal, with four loanees eventually arriving in the final few weeks of the window, is the main reason why Silva isn’t surprised at United’s rise as he spoke candidly about his side’s potential promotion competitors.
He said: “It’s not a surprise to me that they’re achieving some results.
“Because you look through their squad and see the solutions they have. They didn’t start the competition well, but have showed a reaction.
“They’re fighting for what they want and we had to do the same. They had a lucky moment to score the goal and they wasted some time as well, which the referee allowed them to do.”
You always felt the Blades’ squad depth in some areas would pay dividends in the end and that proved to be crucial against the Cottagers as the influential Morgan Gibbs-White was replaced by another top-quality player in Berge at the break.
Although Silva’s side possess great strength in depth, the Blades were able to match them with their own quality and this is something the latter needs to take advantage of against inferior teams throughout the remainder of the season as they look to force their way into the play-offs.
44-year-old Heckingbottom may have endured a bright start at Bramall Lane, but things won’t always go his way and that’s when he will need to call on his bench to freshen things up and perhaps make a few tactical tweaks in a bid to change his fortunes.
This depth will also be crucial if Covid cases prove to be problematic, a big possibility considering the Omicron variant and the outbreaks that have already happened at several Championship clubs in recent weeks.
Injuries and suspensions will also come into play, so they need to ensure they have a sufficient number of options in all positions when the January window shuts. The centre-back area is one they may need to look at next month.