Sheffield United: How much trouble are Chris Wilder's side in this season?

By Emma SandersBBC Sport
Sheffield United players react to Chelsea defeat
Sheffield United have lost all four of their away games in the Premier League this season

Sheffield United ended last season competing for a place in Europe but they already find themselves rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table, without a win after eight games in 2020-21.

Their return of one point at this stage of the competition is the joint-lowest tally 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 through. Nobody is going to give us anything. It's the big test," manager Chris Wilder told BBC Sport after the Blades were beaten 4-1 at Chelsea on Saturday.

David McGoldrick had given the visitors the advantage - just the second time they have led this season - but goals from Tammy Abraham, Ben Chilwell, Thiago Silva and Timo Werner saw them off comfortably.

So what is going wrong for Sheffield United? What are they doing differently this season? And can they turn things around?

How it compares with last season's start

Graphic showing points won after eight leagues games under Chris Wilder: 2016-17 - 13; 2017-18 - 15; 2018-19 - 13; 2019-20 - 9; 2020-21 - 1
The number of points won after eight league games by Sheffield United under manager Chris Wilder

It is the Blades' worst start in the league under Wilder.

They picked up nine points from their opening eight games last season after being promoted from the Championship, scoring seven and conceding seven.

But they have already shipped twice as many goals in 2020-21 as they had at this stage last term and have only scored themselves four times.

Defeat on Saturday was their fourth on the road this season - they picked up 21 of their 54 points away from home in 2019-20.

Thirteen of those points were picked up against the so-called 'big six' sides - they took four points each off Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, and drew at home to Manchester United.

However, the Bramall Lane club have already lost to Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea in the past five weeks.

They have also only led for 42 minutes this campaign and have already dropped six points from winning positions. They dropped nine in total last season.

"Injuries have really hurt them and the new players are struggling, but as a whole on Saturday they were nowhere near it in terms of competing," said Match of the Day pundit Jermaine Jenas.

"There's a lot of panic in the team. They started well but they just got worse and worse. They weren't conceding simple goals last season and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Chris Wilder has got a lot of work to do."

Sheffield United's results in the Premier League this season
Sheffield United 0-2 WolvesAston Villa 1-0 Sheffield United
Sheffield United 0-1 Leeds UnitedArsenal 2-1 Sheffield United
Sheffield United 1-1 FulhamLiverpool 2-1 Sheffield United
Sheffield United 0-1 Manchester CityChelsea 4-1 Sheffield United

Poor form and a tough run of fixtures

Sheffield United's fixtures at the start of 2020-21 have been less favourable.

They had only come up against Chelsea and Liverpool from the recognised 'big six' before matchday nine last season and two of the teams they played in those opening eight games - Bournemouth and Watford - were relegated at the end of the campaign.

However, the Blades have already been beaten by promoted side Leeds United and were held to a draw at home by Fulham, who had lost every game up until that point. They travel to West Brom, who are 18th going into their match against Tottenham on Sunday, at the end of this month.

"Our season won't be decided on games against the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea. It will be against the teams around us and that's what we need to focus on," Wilder told BBC Sport.

"I don't like to be 'nearly' - and we can't afford to be in the next 10 games."

Sheffield United's next six Premier League games: West Ham (h), West Brom (a), Leicester (h), Southampton (a), Manchester United (h), Brighton (a)
Three of Sheffield United's next six Premier League games are at home

Injuries to key players and inconsistencies

As well as some tough fixtures, the Blades have suffered injuries to key midfielder John Fleck and defender Jack O'Connell, who could miss the rest of the season after making 33 Premier League appearances in 2019-20.

Striker Lys Mousset - joint top scorer last season - is yet to feature in 2020-21 because of injury and goalkeeper Dean Henderson has returned to Manchester United following the end of his loan spell.

Wilder has also expressed his frustration at John Lundstram's rejection of a new contract, while new forwards Rhian Brewster and Oliver Burke have yet to hit the ground running.

"We have to plug a few gaps at the moment," Wilder said on Saturday.

"For any promoted team to come up you have to have the balance of the ball and consistency in selection. We haven't had that this season through injuries and form as well.

"You have to have players who know the system to a heartbeat and have that attitude going into the games. Unfortunately, at the moment that's not the case."

Match of the Day pundit Tim Cahill expects them to get out of trouble: "I think they've got enough in their locker with their manager - he's a strong character."

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