Sheffield United not getting ahead of themselves over solid Premier League start

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder congratulates his players after beating Arsenal at Bramall Lane. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder congratulates his players after beating Arsenal at Bramall Lane. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
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Chris Wilder insists his Sheffield United players will not get carried away with their impressive start to life in the Premier League.

Monday night’s 1-0 win over Europa League finalists Arsenal pushed the newly-promoted Blades into the top 10, with 12 points from their opening nine games.

That result was even more impressive when you consider the Gunners arrived at Bramall Lane having lost just once this season – away at Liverpool – and having won five of their previous six.

But after beating Everton at Goodison Park, drawing 2-2 at Chelsea and only narrowly losing 1-0 to Liverpool, victory over the Gunners simply confirmed United have settled into the top flight.

Not that anyone at Bramall Lane will be taking their Premier League status for granted, ahead of tomorrow’s trip to West Ham United.

“One result against Arsenal does not mean we’ve landed in the Premier League,” said Wilder. “That isn’t the message from me and that won’t be how the players look at it either.

CONFIDENT: Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder at Vicarage Road. Picture: Robin Parker/Sportimage

CONFIDENT: Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder at Vicarage Road. Picture: Robin Parker/Sportimage

“I won’t have to say anything to the players. They had a great night, against world class players.

“But it’s my pet hate, in terms of attitude, when you see teams become spike teams. We had some nice things said about us, but that was then. This is now.

“Nobody has done anything at this football club by just winning one game of football. Every point is so precious.

“When you get into it, you see why. The intensity, the pressure, how much owners and supporters want to be a part of this division.”

One result against Arsenal does not mean we’ve landed in the Premier League. That isn’t the message from me and that won’t be how the players look at it either.

Sheffield United boss, Chris Wilder.

To put United’s start to life back at the top table of English football into perspective, they have matched the fine start to the season Huddersfield Town enjoyed two years ago.

David Wagner’s Terriers collected 12 points from their first nine outings – three wins, three draws – and defied all expectations by surviving their first season in the Premier League.

Town eventually finished the season with 37 points to avoid relegation.

If United are to emulate their Yorkshire neighbours and survive their first season in the top flight, then the Blades’ defence could prove key.

Wilder’s side have the joint-best defence in the Premier League – alongside runaway leaders Liverpool – conceding just seven goals in nine outings.

After securing two promotions in three years with a style of play boasting over-lapping centre-backs, many pundits feared their marauding style of football would be exposed by top-flight forward lines.

But while the likes of centre-halves Chris Basham and Jack O’Connell have still joined in attacks, the Blades’ back line has remained resolute.

So how has Wilder managed to strike a balance between defence and attack?

“It is quite interesting that we’re labelled as a defensive-minded team,” added Wilder, who has no new injury problems ahead of the Hammers game.

“I don’t really see that. I just think we’re as balanced as possible. We’re still trying to create chances and play our own way, even though the standards have gone through the roof from where we were last year.

“It’s just general desire and decent defending. We know we’re going to have to be good at it because of the quality of the opposition, especially at the top end of the pitch. There’s good players all around but usually, where the money is spent, it’s at the top end of the pitch.

“So it’s just a desire to keep the ball out of the net and then, if they get through the defenders, they’ve got to get past the goalkeeper (Dean Henderson) who is doing really well for us.

“We’ve looked at possession, at times we have to be better from back to front. We’re up against really good athletes.

“We have to keep our shape but if we can commit, we will do. Concentration levels have to be good, because of the quality the opposition have.

“I don’t see us as a defensive team. I don’t see us as a counter-attacking team. I was watching the (Arsenal) game back and people were saying, if we’d have got beat, we’d have been a point above the relegation zone. So that’s what it’s like.

“It’s just head down and on to the next game.”

French striker Lys Mousset celebrated his first league start with the winner against the Gunners, Oli McBurnie and Callum Robinso dropping to the bench.

But Wilder admits he could change a winning side – “sometimes it’s the right thing to do” – for the trip to London Stadium.

He said: “We came through a tough game. Obviously we look at the physical and the mental side. There were a lot of tired minds and tired bodies afterwards. But after a couple of days off, it was back in and everyone is okay.

“We could stick with the same but that’s why we assembled a squad, to change it around if we have to. Sometimes, it’s the hardest thing in the world to change a winning side. But sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

“That changing room on Monday was not just filled with players who had been on the pitch, but also players disappointed not to get on. They accept that. We are nine games into a 38-game season. If we have to make changes, we’ll be brave and will do.”