Heading into the international break, the Blades’ chances of making it to the play-off spot are looking dull. Sheffield United are placed 18th in the Championship with five wins, four draws and eight losses. Their recent form does little to inspire confidence, as they have won just one of their last five matches. With reports suggesting that Sheffield are planning a squad overhaul in the January transfer window, many veteran players could leave the club. Despite having multiple attacking options who possess vast experience in the Championship, only Billy Sharp has been able to maintain consistency for the Blades this season.
Sharp has been with Sheffield United since 2015 and has made over 200 appearances for the club. Over the years, he has been relied upon by the Blades and has remained ever-present, finding the back of the net consistently. This season as well, he has scored four goals and added a further six assists in 17 appearances in the Championship.
His goal contribution is elevated more when his age is put into perspective. Even at 35, he remains as indispensable for the club as he was when he joined them. Winger, Ben Osborn even admitted recently, that the Blades have been too reliant on captain Billy Sharp this season. As he enters into the later stages of his career, Sharp could use the support of his younger teammates. Jokanovic would be aware that an injury to Sharp at this juncture, would cause a lot of problems for the Blades. The likes of Lys Mousset and Rhian Brewster need to start performing on a more consistent basis to take the load off of their captain Sharp.
Let’s analyze Sharp’s stats from this season to gauge his importance in Jokanovic’s attack.
Sharp’s attacking and creativity stats have been top-tier this season. His xG per 90, shots per 90, and touches in the opposition box per 90, are among the league’s best. His other attacking and creativity attributes are also above the league median value. He has an xG of 0.48 per match while he averages more than four touches in the opposition’s box per match, indicating his high threat near the opposition box.
In addition to scoring goals, Sharp has laid six assists this season. He ranks highly in terms of average assists per 90, expected assists per 90, and shot assists per 90. He has also been accurate with his passes into the attacking third.
Even at the age of 35, Sharp remains as active as he was in his younger years. His heat map indicates the areas of the pitch where he is most engaged in. Sharp’s ability to switch positions with ease in the opposition’s half, is also highlighted by his heat map. He often drops deep to receive passes from his teammates and supports them in the build-up phases of the match.
Sharp is a huge threat inside the opposition’s box, as indicated by the shot map. All of his goals this season have come from inside the opposition’s box. He has also attempted most of his shots at goals from inside the box, with Sharp exploiting many spaces in the opposition’s box.
Sheffield have continued to rely on Sharp to produce the goods this season. His vocal presence, combined with his leadership skills and the ability to run the channels, suggests that he will be continued to be counted upon by Jokanovic for the foreseeable future. Although if the Blades are to revive their season, they will need their plethora of attacking options to aid their captain.