Sheffield United were among the top bets to get relegated from the Premier League this season but they proved all their doubters wrong and were in the hunt for a Champions League spot alongside big-name teams like Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham. Let us look at how they achieved that this season.
Chris Wilder’s brainchild
The biggest part of Sheffield’s success is their game-changing tactic of playing with ‘overlapping centrebacks’. Chris Wilder sets up his team in a 3-5-2 formation and has broken the old English tactical mould where they set up with a standard 4-4-2 formation and rely on long balls.
As a newly promoted team, no one expected Wilder to continue with his 3-5-2 formation and rather expected them to sit deep and shut up shop. The most creative part of this formation the ‘overlapping centrebacks’ involve a simple yet very effective tactic. In this formation, Wilder overloaded the attacking third with players which was very effective against teams who set up defensively against them. The two players involved in this are Jack O’Connell and Chris Basham. Playing week in week out, both of them managed 6 goals and 7 assists in the previous season. With both of the centre backs forward, now the duty falls upon the entire team to defend.
Wilder’s men don’t operate the same way defensively like a conventional back 3 or 5. They achieve this with their wing-back aggressively pushing to close down the opponents when they attack from wide. The wide centre-back on that particular side will now play as the full-back and the other wing-back will now drop back and play as the full-back on the far side.
Sheffield statistically has the second-best defensive stats in the entire league with only league leaders Liverpool managing a better defensive record than them.
Dean Henderson who is their starter goalkeeper has earned major plaudits for his first season in the Premier League. Loaned from Manchester United, Henderson has arguably been the best goalkeeper in the league this season. He has managed to keep 10 clean sheets this season with only Nick Pope having more.
Another key player is Oliver Norwood, who has managed an impressive tally of 1560 passes in the Premier League. Norwood is one of those who controls the play from the centre of the pitch for The Blades.
The forward duo of David McGoldrick and Lys Mousset is worthy of equal praise. Mousset has 5 goals and 4 assists this season. He is tied with the highest goals for his team alongside John Fleck. The impressive thing about this is that he has managed this only making 10 starts and 13 appearances from the bench.
The other two players who deserve to be mentioned for their consistent performances are John Lundstram and Enda Stevens. Lundstram, a Fantasy Premier League hero has made 27 appearances for the Blades and has registered 4 goals and 3 assists. Wingback Enda Stevens has been a consistent performer for The Blades starting as their left wing-back and has registered 9 clean sheets with 2 goals to his name as well.
Chris Wilder has set up his team in such a way that he has managed to get the best out of every player from his team. Not only keeping his team’s morale high Wilder has managed to entertain every football fan across the world with his fluid and very entertaining style of football. With the core of his team being with him from the early days in the Championship, Wilder and Sheffield’s performances have been a real breath of fresh air for the whole league.