Celebrations may well continue throughout the summer, but the dust is settling on Sheffield United and Chris Wilder’s promotion to the Premier League, and they must now focus on planning for next season.
While the achievement is remarkable and simply being in the league for a season will be good for the club in the long run, many fans will be desperate to stay in the top flight.
Sheffield United blew away most opposition this season and fought off challenges from the likes of Leeds and West Brom along the way, showing they were capable of grinding out wins as well as playing entertaining football.
The 3-5-2 formation that Blades deployed in most games turned out to be even more effective than it was last season, with a few tactical tweaks helping the squad grow each week, allowing them to romp home to promotion despite many expecting them to ‘bottle it’.
But how should Sheffield United approach the Premier League? Wilder said recently that he will not change his identity, making it clear his side will stick to their guns in terms of style.
He said: “We’ve got a strategy and a philosophy, whilst keeping our identity. We can’t go swashbuckling into the division, we’ve got to be smart and cute in a football sense and through recruitment.”
This could be suicidal for Wilder, if he were to stick to the same style. While it would win them a few games and take some teams by surprise, Sheffield United could get played off the park if they rolled up at an Etihad or Anfield playing like this.
Therefore, Wilder needs a plan B: a more conservative one.
A perfect example for this, up until his sacking on Monday, would have been Chris Hughton at Brighton. The impressive coach got the Seagulls up playing an expansive attacking brand of football, with a 4-4-2 formation.
Upon promotion though, Hughton – who had prior top-flight experience with Norwich and Newcastle – became more conservative.
While his work may not be deemed good enough for an ambitious club like Brighton, the conservative nature has kept them in the league for two seasons.
Chris Wilder shouldn’t completely alter his style and ‘park the bus’, but he certainly needs a more conservative Plan B next season.