Bénie Traoré (mid) Häcken; Anis Slimane (mid) Bröndby IF; Yasser Larouci (def) Troyes – end of loan; Auston Trusty (def) Arsenal
Iliman Ndiaye (k) (att) Marseille; James McAtee (r) Manchester City - end of loan; Enda Stevens (def) released; Jake Eastwood (gk) released; Billy Sharp (sp) (att) released; Jack O'Connell (def) released; Kyron Gordon (def) released
Sheffield United secured automatic promotion to the Premier League after deservedly finishing second behind champions Burnley and 11 points clear of third-placed Luton. They boasted the third-best attack with 73 goals scored and joint-second best defence with 39 goals conceded, keeping 19 clean sheets in 46 matches.
The Blades couldn’t manage to keep hold of their superstar Iliman Ndiaye, as their key forward departed to Marseille this summer. Sheffield also released several squad players to make space in the roster and signed prodigious attacking midfielder Bénie Traoré and Tunisia international Anis Slimane to beef up their midfield.
Both Traoré and Slimane will be starters in Paul Heckingbottom’s solid 3-5-2 formation. Heckingbottom is not expected to change his system, as he needs the compactness that Sheffield demonstrated last season in order to compete in the Premier League. In the FA cup semi-final duel against Manchester City last April, he stressed that Sheffield are not willing to just sit back and wait to get destroyed by strong opponents. He wants to take the game to Sheffield’s rivals and this is what we should expect from them ahead of next season too.
Three teams kept more clean sheets and only one team conceded fewer goals than Sheffield last season. Despite not being a defence-oriented team, they were rigid at the back, this being their main strength. It remains to be seen if they can emulate such performances against world-class forwards.
Ndiaye’s departure is a huge blow dealt to Sheffield. The talented striker had as many as 24 goals contributions last season, scoring 14 and assisting 10 - leading the way among his teammates in both categories. The Blades will struggle in attack without their star.
Sheffield’s main target is to secure safety. If they can achieve that by playing attractive football at times, then Heckingbottom will be the happiest coach in the league next season.