The addition of Ben Sheaf over the summer epitomised our transfer activity on promotion to the Championship. Young and promising, but unproven at this level of football. The talent with Sheaf has been apparent but he has struggled at times to cope with the pace and physicality of this division. Like quite a few of our players, he is probably someone who would benefit from having an experienced player alongside him to settle down and show what he is capable of. Instead, he has had to figure out on his own how to compete in a tough division.
Despite the struggles that Ben Sheaf has had in asserting himself on games, he clearly has the backing of Mark Robins – who has continued to play him as the defensive midfield anchor of the side, despite the more experienced and physical Liam Kelly returning from injury. Sheaf appears to be the kind of deep-sitting midfielder who likes to keep possession ticking over, and while he can be criticised at times for going for the safe option, he has the ability to pick out some delightful longer passes that can switch defence to attack in the blink of an eye.
The idea behind signing Ben Sheaf and playing him ahead of Liam Kelly is that it makes the team more fluent in possession. As that midfielder playing in front of the defence, the concern is that he’s not an imposing enough presence to act as a defensive shield – which is part of the reason why the back three has looked so exposed this season. In addition, Sheaf has been guilty of poor decision-making in possession when under pressure, which has only added to our defensive issues. There are signs that Ben Sheaf may come good for us at this level, the worry is that it will take him time to do so in an area of the team where we can ill-afford rookie errors.