Sheffield United’s 2019 summer signing’s were a mixed bag | Pool/Getty Images
The drama of the transfer window has almost become as popular as the action on the pitch, but there’s good reason for that.
It’s the first inkling fans get of how their side is going to perform in the season to come before a ball is even kicked. It’s a barometer with which the supporters use to measure the adequacy of their board, and it’s often what makes or breaks a manager.
Sheffield United and Chris Wilder defied all expectations last season with an incredible ninth-placed finish, but they largely relied on their trusted band of brothers who have been with the club since their League One day, rather than the new signings who were brought into bolster their ranks.
Sheffield United relied heavily on players such as Egan, Sharp and Basham who have been around for many years | Justin Setterfield/Getty Images
Jack Rodwell, Ben Osborn and Jack Robinson joined with very limited success only making 20 Premier League appearances between them, and Callum Robinson looks set to join Luke Freeman and Ravel Morrison in leaving Bramall Lane after only 12 months on the books in south Yorkshire.
Sander Berge’s January arrival was undoubtedly a success after the Norwegian put in a string of good performances following his surprise move to Sheffield, but Oli McBurnie and Lys Mousset’s six goals apiece in all competitions has left question marks over whether their firepower will be enough to ensure survival for another season.
Mousset and McBurnie both struggled at times scoring 12 goals between them | Nathan Stirk/Getty Images
The Blades bagged just 39 goals in their first season back in the top-flight. A tally that only bettered Crystal Palace, Newcastle and relegated Watford and Norwich’s totals.
Wilder recently revealed to Sky Sports News that he has some exciting signings lined up and Blades fans will be hoping one of them is a natural goalscorer.
“There’s a little sparkle in my eye because we’re moving. We’re in the process of singing a couple of international players, so that’s good news. The squad needs competition. I’ve said to the players that they need challenges. The squad needs to be as strong as it possibly can be.” The Sheffield United manager said.
Robinson was amongst the summer signings who failed to make an impact last season | Alex Pantling/Getty Images
Promoted teams have traditionally struggled in their second season in the top flight, as sides figure out their once unfamiliar approach and develop plans to combat their biggest threats. Wilder may have to dip into the transfer market to ensure the second season syndrome doesn’t undo all the good work he’s put in over the last few years, but more astute purchases than last summer will be needed.
United have now completed the signings of Derby pair Jayden Bogle and Max Lowe, while West Brom forward Oliver Burke could soon join them at Bramall Lane as part of a swap deal involving Robinson. They’ll join Aaron Ramsdale and Wes Foderingham as the new faces in the Steel City, but none of these signings are particularly awe-inspiring.
Although the young full-backs are highly-rated they have no Premier League experience, and uncertainty will remain over whether they offer an immediate improvement to the options already at Wilder’s disposal.
Burke only scored one goal whilst with Deportivo Alaves in La Liga last season | DeFodi Images/Getty Images
Burke is another signing fraught with danger after the Scottish international has struggled for game time since his failed £13.5m move to RB Leipzig back in 2016 – registering only one goal and two assists during a loan spell in Spain last season with Alaves.
But it is not just Sheffield’s top-flight future that Wilder risks with another batch of below-par signings – his reputation is on the line too.
His innovative astute tactical style pipped Pep Guardiola to the LMA Manager of the Year prize in 2019 and drew plaudits from far and wide during his maiden season in the Premier League, but he’s now spent over £100m since achieving promotion and the return on such a figure has been questionable, to say the least.
Eddie Howe suffered at Bournemouth partly because of a poor record in the transfer market | Pool/Getty Images
Just ask Eddie Howe how damaging a poor record in the transfer market can be to up and coming managers lauded as the ‘next big thing’. Mousset could turn into the next Dominic Solanke. Burke into Jordan Ibe.
Nothing is guaranteed in modern football given its incredibly fickle nature, but if Wilder wants to carry on his upward trajectory his record in the market needs to improve.
Nobody is in any doubt in regards to his tactical know-how, ability to motivate and maximise the performance from his players he has, however throughout the rest of the summer Wilder will need to pull a few exceptional signings out of the bag to really give the Blades a chance of becoming ‘part of the furniture’ in the Premier League.