A look at Chris Wilder’s tactics at Sheffield United

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

It is perhaps no coincidence that the two in-form English managers were honing their craft in the Championship a year before, they now sit occupying European places in the top flight. Strikingly, both managers have favoured a similar tactical set-up to their previous year.

There are distinct differences between Chris Wilder and Frank Lampard, namely the resources at their disposal and, more tellingly, the set-up of their respective outfits. They have both however favoured a similar style to the one they were using in the Championship, even with Frank Lampard now at a different side.

As early as August there were signs of Chris Wilder’s intent. After a point away at Stamford Bridge, Wilder commented on his side’s willingness to go ‘toe to toe’ with the biggest sides. “We are not day-trippers getting autographs and collecting shirts.”[1] These words retain their seriousness as we move toward December.

Tactically Gifted

Wilder’s ambition and energy is exemplified by a side that is moulded in his image. Think of the great footballing minds that are leading sides today, and now look at the sides they lead, the calculated triangles in the opponents D, or perhaps the full-throttle efforts in ball retention. “I believe in the players more than they do sometimes,”[2] this sentiment is evident in the willingness of his players to express themselves.

Watching Wilder’s Sheffield United you are immediately struck by the 3-5-2 formation, how it contracts and seamlessly acclimatizes to the pulse of any given game. If the shape of the side was not adventurous enough, overlapping centre backs certainly show a creative willingness- tempered only by timely utilisation. An epithet of great managerial ability is being able to judge the correct moment for a tactical tweak mid-game. Chris Wilder has built a side with the tactical awareness to be able to respond to setbacks.

chris-wilder-tactics

The game against Manchester United at Bramall Lane serves to illustrate a managerial tenacity that you will be hard-fought to match.

Dominating the opening by utilising a compact midfield trio and aggressive pressing from the front line, Sheffield United gained the early advantage.

Lys Mousset didn’t give up on Oliver Norwood’s hopeful ball as he closed down a panicked Phil Jones and sent him flying. Before Jones could lodge a complaint Mousset’s squared ball had rebounded kindly in the path of a grateful John Fleck, who ambled the ball in.

If the first goal had any fortune about it, the second left no questions unanswered. Lys Mousset again regains possession from a lax Andreas Pereira before playing a fleeting one-two with Johnny Fleck. As Mousset regains the ball he charges at a scurrying backline, centres himself, and sweeps in a polished finish from outside the box against a helpless David De Gea. By this point, the Blades were firmly in control and the ‘Ole’s at the wheel’ memes were once more doing the rounds.

Wilder should note that his back three must be aware of the threat down the flanks, needing to adjust to a compact flat five effectively. An incisive Daniel James dart down the right flank shone a light on this issue. As James stands the ball up Sheffield United’s back three focus on winning the header and Basham manages a half-clearance only as far as Brandon Williams, who is on hand to rifle away a first-time volley. The space Williams finds himself in as he strikes the ball will provide food for thought for Wilder who will urge his wing-backs to be more disciplined.

Man United again exploited that right flank for their second as Marcus Rashford turned provider. The back three are once more isolated with a diagonal ball that exposes a thirty-seven year old Jagielka.

At two all, the game was edging one way. The quick-fire goals conceded cause a panic leading the Blades backline to revert to a flat five. The rigid compactness is forfeited in the panic caused by Man United’s relentless forward play. The third goal again arises predictably through exposing the space between wing-back and centre back, this time on the left flank. A quick one-two between James and Martial allows Blades keeper Henderson to be drawn in and the pullback by Daniel James ensures Rashford’s name on the score sheet.

It is at this point Chris Wilder underlines why he is a serious candidate for the best current English manager. With the game having so fleetingly escaped from Sheffield United’s grasp he shows resolve, he is not content with the fantastic performance his players have given for two-thirds of this game. With ninety minutes played the Blades midfield is still displaying impressive fitness levels. Stevens battles down the left and pulls the ball back, and ball dribbles out to McBurnie who slams in after a VAR induced hint of fortune. As the ball is turned into the box you will notice Blades centre back Jack O’Connell just outside the sixteen yard box. The centre of the back trio turns sweeper as Sheffield United bravely chase the game and are justly rewarded.

Man United will feel hard done by after the VAR decision went against them but Ole Gunner Solskjaer would have snapped your arm off for point at the seventieth.

Important Season Ahead

“I would have been really disappointed had we not got anything from this game because for the majority of the time we were right up there in terms of the performance levels.”[3] Christ Wilder’s post-match comments show recognition that this point was not a fortuitous one and that their current sixth place standing, ahead of Arsenal and Man United, is an ample reflection of their abilities.

A comparison between Frank Lampard and Chris Wilder is perhaps unfair when we consider the experience in their sides. The Blades boasted only five current internationals against Man United, all of which have represented the Republic of Ireland or Scotland. The wealth of experience Man United had on show, or that which Chelsea posses is incomparable, what is comparable is the tactical knowhow their current manages are showing.

It would be premature to suggest that Sheffield United can mount a serious challenge for Europa League places but they are quickly establishing themselves as a Premier League side. Chris Wilder will be quick in pointing out to his players that they are still some way from safety but, as he has already done, he will remind them that they do not find themselves in their current position through good fortune. They are an outfit displaying a tactical cunning and robustness in their play that they have effectively carried over into the Premier League from the Championship.

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/49456552

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/49456552

[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/50449170

Read More

Football Tactics for Beginners: The Low Block

What is the low block? The low block is generally referred to a football team's defensive shape without the ball. Generally the low block consists...

Football Tactics for Beginners: Defending Corner Kicks

We are all afraid of it. It is the 90th minute, your team is up by one goal and the opposition is about to...

Football Tactics for Beginners- The Sweeper Keeper: From Lev Yashin to Manuel Neuer

Germany’s Manuel Neuer has been widely credited as one of the finest goal-keepers of his generation, and quite rightly too. The Bayern Munich shot-stopper...

The Diminishing role of the Stopper Center Back in the Premier League

Defending and its place in the modern game has spawned a quagmire of critical debate. Back in 2014, when Gary Neville’s article in the...

The art of the long throw and how to counter it

Since the dawn of time, mankind has yearned to to throw stuff really far. Rocks, spears, shapes in the night club, to be human...

Football Tactics For Beginners-The Christmas Tree Formation

  Football is a result oriented business. Whatever succeeds, earns fame for itself and for its conceiver. And if it captures the imagination of spectators...

Football Tactics for Beginners: Tactical Periodization

What is Tactical Periodization? Tactical Periodization is a coaching methodology which is used to train football players with respect to the tactical context of the...

Football Tactics for Beginners

‘The Diamond demolition’ in the Kolkata derby

The year was 1997, and on the 13th of July, the stage was set for the biggest clash in Indian football – the Kolkata...

The Football match which started a war

Plenty of football stadiums have statues standing outside of them. There's strange one here and there (Michael Jackson formerly outside Craven Cottage springs to...

Barcelona Vs Real Madrid:The Dream Team vs The Galacticos

An imagining of a match between two famous El Clasico sides. The 1992 European Cup winning Barcelona team, known as “The Dream Team” versus...

Hungary – The Golden Team that never quite made it.

When you look back at the history of past World Cup winners and European Championship winners the usual names by in large stand out....

How Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona Reinvented Total Football

Arrigo Sachi, the mastermind of the Milan side of the 80′s, had once staked a claim that the next tactical revolution in the game,...

Forgotten Superstars-Matthias Sammer

Most football fans who consider themselves to be experts will expect to be able to name a long list of recent Ballon D'or winners....

Dimples, Kangaroos and Bohemians

One of the main tram routes in Prague is the 22. This goes all the way from Bíla Hora, the site of one of...

Descent into darkness: Osvaldo Zubeldia and the era of antifutbol

EVEN if Billy McNeill was really nicknamed Cesar rather than Caesar, there was no denying that the scene on May 25, 1967, was one...

Dr. Carneiro or: How I should learn not to stop the game and love the boss

Hundreds of journalists this week have condemned Jose Mourinho for his treatment of Eva Carneiro and Jon Fearn after they wrongly ran onto the...