Sheffield United v Chelsea: Anfield memories for Ollie Arblaster and Jack Robinson will stand them in good stead

THE development of Ollie Arblaster, Andre Brooks and Will Osula has represented the equivalent of an oasis in a desert in many respects in a parched 2023-24 landscape for Sheffield United.

The former is currently enjoying his place in the sun and learning by not just the week, but each passing match-day in what has been a blossoming spring so far for the teenager, who turns 20 in May and started off this season on loan at League One outfit Port Vale.

Arblaster, who scored for England’s elite squad in their game in the Czech Republic last week, has started the Blades’ last three Premier League matches against Bournemouth, Fulham and Liverpool.

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His head was spinning at Anfield on Thursday and not just because he was amid exalted company and surroundings. What a place to complete his first full game as a Premier League player.

Sheffield United's Ollie Arblaster battles with Liverpool rival Luis Díaz during the Premier League match at Anfield. Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images.Sheffield United's Ollie Arblaster battles with Liverpool rival Luis Díaz during the Premier League match at Anfield. Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images.
Sheffield United's Ollie Arblaster battles with Liverpool rival Luis Díaz during the Premier League match at Anfield. Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images.

That tests come thick and fast. Now it’s onto Chelsea and should Chris Wilder get more incremental growth in his promising academy players between now and the end of a campaign which is highly likely to end in relegation, then it will be provide some welcome optimism going forward.

Arblaster has learnt a fair bit and must continue to do that. Handling speculation - his name is said to be on the radar of several Premier League clubs who are said to be keen on making sure he remains in the top-flight - is part of it.

Wilder said: "He has to deal with it and we have to deal with it. He’s just got to get his head and carry on playing football, which no doubt he will.

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"The people around him and who have brought him through and will have a major effect on his career are still in and around the building and we will do our best to help him move forward.

"You cannot stop that speculation. I understand people talking about it, I’d rather not. But I get it. We’d rather him get on with his football, but he’s doing well and has got to carry on doing well.

"The first part of it is getting up to train with the first team or being available for the first-team group. Getting in the first team is the next hurdle and then staying there now and a regular in our team is the challenge he’s got to face and I am sure he will and he will succeed in it."

As for his experience at Anfield, it is something Arblaster won’t forget. It will stand him in good stead in terms of his education.

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Wilder added: “He made a comment to Knilly (Alan Knill) at half-time ‘they are coming from nowhere’ in terms of the press. Liverpool have arguably got the best press and counter-press in the Premier League.

"He got caught a couple of times, but he’ll learn from that. That’s as tough as it gets. It doesn’t mean he’s going to get any drop-off on Sunday. He’s playing about £250m of central midfield players in there. Our boy will no doubt enjoy that challenge.

"He understands the speed and intensity of the Premier League is the best in the world. You get up to speed and if you get used to that, then you can handle anything else.”

Speaking of well-heeled talent on show amid a Chelsea squad savagely labelled as ‘billion pound bottle jobs’ by Gary Neville earlier this year- the former Manchester United legend got his comeuppance in that regard on Thursday after United’s loss at Stamford Bridge - Cole Palmer is the poster boy.

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For the Blades, it’s another game and another world-class performer to try and muzzle.

Palmer’s ex-team-mate at Manchester City in James McAtee may mark Wilder’s card a little, but it’s hard to suppress such a smooth operator for ninety-plus minutes.

Wilder added: "Certainly, everyone was looking at that move thinking it seems a strange one. You can understand it from Manchester City’s point of view from the profit and loss scenario and the advantages they gain from selling a homegrown player.

"Certainly, there’s Chelsea’s ability to spot a player and have that clout to go and pay for him. He’s certainly been their outstanding player and one we need to tie down if we are going to get any chance of a result."

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While Arblaster’s journey switches from Anfield back to Bramall Lane, so a rather more seasoned campaigner at the other end of his career will also have memories to recount from L4.

Ex-Liverpool defender Jack Robinson, 30, perhaps the one senior Blades player who has stood tall this season, led out a side at a place he holds dear.

It ended in defeat, perhaps predictably, but Robinson, as per usual, let nobody down.

On Robinson’s Blades journey, Wilder continued: “His performances over the last season and three quarters have been outstanding. He’s stepped right the way through from an ability, performance and leadership point of view.

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"We are looking around the changing room thinking that we didn’t think it was an issue in a previous time. Now I’m looking and thinking we are lacking those players and we need more of those players.

"From an emotional point of view, from a boy who started his career at Anfield, to lead Sheffield United out in front of 60,000 punters was a great moment for him and his family and one he’ll treasure for the rest of his life, I’d imagine."