Player Analysis: Morgan Gibbs-White
Morgan Gibbs-White has been a standout performer for Sheffield United so far this season, succeeding under the turbulent reign of Slavisa Jokanovic and now looking to be Paul Heckingbottom’s main man with The Blades on the up.
This spell with The Blades has arguably reignited the 21-year-old, bursting onto the scene at just 16 years of age with Wolves. His recent success in the Championship this season has grounded Gibbs-White, after a few seasons of rare opportunities at Molineux.
Before we talk of his present-day successes at Bramall Lane, it feels right to start at the beginning of the Staffordshire born youngster’s career. Gibbs-White has been involved with the Wolverhampton Wanderers set-up since the age of 8, impressing in the youth system which saw get capped by the England U16’s.
Gibbs-White would make his first-team debut for Wolves at just 16, substituted on in the FA Cup for a half an hour cameo against a then Premier League Stoke City. He would get fleeting opportunities as Wolves transitioned into their team of today – buying the likes of Ruben Neves whilst still one league below the Premier League.
He would make 13 appearances for Wolves in their title-winning season of 2017-18, the teenager often substituted on by Nuno Espirito Santo to play alongside the likes of Diogo Jota even with his relative inexperience. However, Gibbs-White’s exploits in helping the England U17’s win the World Cup in October of that season showcased his raw ability.
The dynamic midfielder would score in both the Quarter Finals and the Final, scoring England’s second in a 5-2 triumph over Spain in the Final. Gibbs-White’s impressive performances made him a hot prospect, featuring alongside the likes of Phil Foden and Emile Smith-Rowe in that pool of youngsters. Therefore, inexperience in Championship football didn’t faze the teenager.
Helped by Wolves dominating the division, Gibbs-White was always confident and forward-focused when substituted on. Driving at opponents with trickery and pace, the opposition would often be dazzled by the youngster’s ability to work his way out of a crowded space.
Nutmegging players for fun, the Wolves youth player turned first-teamer exuded confidence. This would only increase in Wolves’ maiden season in the Premier League under Nuno, the likes of Adama Traore and Joao Moutinho purchased which might detract the Portuguese manager from starting the Englishman.
However, Wolves’ number 17 would make 26 appearances with five starts in total in the Premier League. Nuno could well have used Wolves’ newly acquired millions to go out and buy another experienced midfielder in the same mould as Moutinho, but the untapped potential of his number 17 gave Wolves a high-octane option in the centre of the park.
But, as is the case with most tipped for stardom at a young age, his career has had peaks and troughs. Since his 26 appearances in the season of 2018-19, opportunities have been limited at Molineux. For every Phil Foden in the world, there’s always a Ravel Morrison that never quite delivers on early promise.
Morgan Gibbs-White hadn’t been written off by any degree, the Nuno bubble bursting saw the Portuguese manager opt for the likes of Vitinha and other faces over Gibbs-White. An injury-stricken loan at Swansea also didn’t go to plan either, the loan cut short due to a fractured foot. But, when returning to Molineux for a few months after this failed loan spell in Wales, he would get his first-ever goal in black and gold.
He would score a 90th-minute winner against Brighton, not even the subdued behind closed doors feel of the match would hinder Gibbs-White’s celebrations. Curling one past Sanchez after being found in the box, it was still a tricky finish with a sea of Brighton players trying to intervene.
This would be an indicator of things to come for the Staffordshire born footballer, swapping Molineux for Bramall Lane in a goal-heavy loan move the season after. The plaudits of Morgan Gibbs-White whilst breaking through at Wolves have now returned, an exciting component of a topsy-turvy Sheffield United this campaign.
Signing for The Blades on the final day of the transfer window, his purchase was made to inject some hope into a dismal Sheffield United camp. Relegated the season prior, Gibbs-White was joining a group winless in five with one goal to their name.
Yet, in his first start, the tides were turning. Sheffield United coasted to a 6-2 win on his debut against Peterborough United, assisting the opener for N’Diaye and helping himself to a goal in a demolition victory.
His goal was exceptionally taken, drilling a shot in for 4-1. Since then, he’s been the star-man for a resurgent Sheffield United. He would score in his next match a matter of days after, sliding in a finish against Preston before scoring a late leveller at Nottingham Forest with a tap-in a few months later. Known as a flair player in his time at Wolves, he had turned into a consistent goal-scorer for his new team based in South Yorkshire.
His best performance in the red and white of Sheffield United came a matter of weeks ago, his goal to level the contest at Cardiff a worthy contender for Goal of the Season in the Championship. Taking the ball down after a pass to him, Gibbs-White had one thing on his mind.
Turning past a number of Cardiff shirts, he floated a superb effort past the helpless Cardiff keeper for 1-1. An exceptional strike, Gibbs-White becoming a hero for Heckingbottom’s team. Sheffield United’s second saw the number 27 assist, his flair showcased in his strike but also in the calm nature of coolly finding Billy Sharp with an inch-perfect pass to make it 2-1.
Sheffield United’s third of the afternoon was a team goal at its finest, the Wolves loanee driving forward after a Blades defender gave him the ball before McGoldrick stroked it in. A win entirely of Morgan Gibbs-White’s making, the Wolves loanee unplayable.
After a quiet few seasons, his name falling out of the headlines, the 21-year-old is showcasing the talent that saw him tipped to be the next best thing whilst he was only 16 years of age.
His parent club have taken notice, Paul Heckingbottom worried Wolves could well recall the exciting midfielder with numbers needed due to the increased prevalence of COVID outbreaks recently.
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Even outside the context of the pandemic, Gibbs-White’s electric form will have Bruno Lage wondering whether to give him an opportunity back in the West Midlands. Wolves this season have been staunchly defensive, could Gibbs-White be the answer to Wolves’ attacking woes this season?
After tasting so much success earlier on in his career, it has been barren in recent times for the former England starlet. Now at 21 years of age, it would make sense for Gibbs-White to stick it out with Sheffield United.
If he continues to set the Championship alight at his current rate, he could well be a crucial player for a Premier League-established Wolverhampton Wanderers side in the years to come.
By: Kelan Sarson / @SarsonKelan
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Nathan Stirk – Getty Images