Sheffield United manager Slavisa Jokanovic has admitted he expects Rhys Norrington-Davies and Enda Stevens to give him a huge selection dilemma at left-back throughout the 2021/22 campaign, speaking to the Sheffield Star.
Although the Blades suffered problems with depth in their central midfield and centre-back positions during the summer, one place they weren’t short of options was at left-back, with the experienced Stevens, capable backup Max Lowe and Welsh international Rhys Norrington-Davies all available as options.
With Stevens playing a huge part in the South Yorkshire side’s 2019/20 promotion-winning campaign and Lowe as a reasonably experienced option, it was perhaps for Norrington-Davies that he managed to get a first-team opportunity so quickly.
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However, Stevens’ early-season injury and Lowe’s temporary move to Nottingham Forest, with Ben Osborn operating in a more advanced wide position now, the 22-year-old has made five Championship appearances this term and after starring in United’s 3-1 win at Hull City last weekend, he could be in with a shout of starting again.
But the Republic of Ireland international has now returned to the fold and scored against Southampton in the midweek Carabao Cup loss. Although he was only scheduled to play a limited number of minutes, injuries to other players kept the 31-year-old on the pitch for the full 90 minutes, although there were no new concerns for him after the game.
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Stevens may not start this afternoon because of his game time in midweek, but the left-back situation certainly gives Slavisa Jokanovic food for thought going into future games, something he acknowledged in his pre-match conference.
He said: “You will see what decision, with Enda and Rhys, I take for my next game. They are both first choices.
“I expect they will fight between them and put me in a tough situation.”
“I want them to put me in a situation where I don’t know who is the best option for me.
“I don’t want to be in a situation where I know who is the best option for us. That is the ideal scenario. for us to be in moving forward, definitely.”
Having that intense competition will only help in their quest to gain promotion – and they seem to have this in quite a few areas.
Not only will Stevens and Norrington-Davies be battling it out, but also the likes of John Fleck and Oliver Norwood who will want to get in the starting lineup ahead of Sander Berge and Conor Hourihane.
When everyone is fit, the competition in the striker department also looks tasty, with Billy Sharp in there as well as Oli McBurnie, Rhian Brewster, Lys Mousset and David McGoldrick.
There are a couple of areas that need to be strengthened. A centre-back may be ideal with Jack O’Connell still out with his long-term ACL injury – and an orthodox winger may also provide the Blades with something different going forward – after failing to recruit one in the summer.
But in terms of the left-back spot more specifically, they won’t need to recruit there even if one of the two options get injured, with the versatile Osborn able to do a job in there. It also remains to be seen whether they have a recall option on Lowe, although this is unlikely with the 24-year-old likely to be a crucial player for Nottingham Forest this term.