Sheffield United have been an interesting team to watch since their return to the Premier League.
The Blades won promotion last season after a 12-year absence from the top flight, and have made an impressive start to their Premier League campaign, most recently missing out on a point against Liverpool due to nothing more than a goalkeeping error.
“I would say the Sheffield United head coach is someone with new ideas and I have seen very few people with these ideas,” said Marco Bielsa last season after Leeds’ trip to Bramall Lane. “I saw things that I wanted to develop and I couldn’t do it,” he added, showing his frustration at the difficult tie with the Yorkshire rivals.
One of the most interesting parts of their tactics is the overlapping centre-backs. Jack O’Connell and Chris Basham are two of the most involved centre halves in the league, driving forward to pop up in advanced positions.
The centre-backs play with a lot of risk but they have been doing that from day one in the Premier League. They love dribbling the ball out from the back to create a 2 vs 1 scenario so they can get past their first hurdle quicker. If you do that well you will always make the other team feel like you have one extra man.
The other players with a lot of risk and are Baldock and Stevens. I remember playing this position myself and it was one of those positions where you get no time for a break. We know Chelsea played a similar way with Conte and it worked well the first season and they caught a lot of teams by surprise.
I played a similar style under Ranieri at Chelsea and quickly we all understood if you are one second late or early it can change the game. That’s why when you defend you become the 4th defender of the line of three and when you attack you need to become a winger.
Imagine doing that for 90 minutes! The best thing about this position for me was that you’re always involved. And if there was one thing I hated in football it’s if you would not be involved for a few minutes because the ball doesn’t come in your area.
I hated that so much that I would let you know instantly, and not in the kindest of ways if you had the chance to pass to me and didn’t. That is why I have a lot of respect for a new team coming up to the Premier League and playing with this brave style. If it works it’s a joy to watch, but when it goes wrong it looks like a pack of cards falling.
And if you think he would switch up the style to take on league leaders Liverpool, you’d be wrong. Chris Wilder stuck to his game plan and used the same tactics against Klopp’s side.
Wilders’ post-match interviews are always interesting too. While many managers would praise their side and concede they were just unlucky after a game like that, Wilder said: “We’ve had a golden opportunity and we’ve let it slip through our hands.”
He also had some very blunt comments about his goalkeeper Dean Henderson after his blunder: “This is a big season for him individually. It is up to him how he develops … From my point of view I don’t want him to make mistakes and he can’t afford to make mistakes to drag himself out of a hole. First and foremost, he has to cut that out, because as with all the top goalkeepers that play, mistakes are very few and far between.”
Some have criticised Wilder for his ‘outdated’ man-management style and the way he criticised Henderson. But I like managers that have their own style of playing and stick to it. It takes a lot of risk and they need to make sure they get a lot of points to be safe for next season, but I always say it’s better to play the game as a brave man with a clear identity and approach, than a coward who has no idea what he’s doing.
At Sheffield that is not the case so I hope they get enough points. The key thing for them will be to score more goals from Robinson and McBurnie because that is what the smaller teams struggle with in the top flight. #mmlove