|Posted by Bergen Blade on March 16, 2013 at 1:00 PM||comments (0)|
Following a shock 4-0 defeat against Stevenage our management need to realise a few changes are required. I think we have a strong squad, and it doesn't take a tactical genious to pick a well balanced first eleven. Here's some advice:
|Posted by Bergen Blade on March 2, 2013 at 4:20 AM||comments (0)|
With the injuries to Jonathan Forte and Jamie Murphy the Blades have less pace to rely on, and without one of them playing as an out and out winger it'll be a challenge to get the blend in midfield right.
We changed it around a few times during the game against Leyton Orient, but the midfield that started was
Robson McDonald Doyle Flynn
Later Robson went central, in the hole behind Kitson, while Poleon dropped down to a wing. Robson was the only one who played anywhere near to his potential and had his best game so far.
I don't know how much it was due to instructions, but Robson roamed around all game and seemed to want to get on the ball at all times. As Orient defended deep and we lacked width he sometimes struggled to find good forward positions. This saw him often drop deep and central to collect the ball, even from defenders.
To me this seemed to confuse Doyle and McDonald. Usually they both like to come short to get the ball from our defenders, with McDonald more likely to advance with it it or try a threaded pass. On Tuesday Robson tried to do both their jobs. Some of his passes were genuinely good attempts at creative through balls, others were decent chipped ball to players out wide, often to our (still standing) full backs.
Such a roaming role could potentially have enabled the two central midfielders to bomb forward more, but McDonald just looked perplexed at the situation, making an unusual amount of mistakes, while Doyle just became invisible. If this is how Danny Wilson wanted/wants us (Robson) to play I am sure we can get better at it, but I'm not sure those four will ever form an effective midfield. We can't have three players wanting to playmake from deep, while the fourth is a defensively hard working wideman. We'd never get enough players in the box and there would be too much pressure on our one quick player (Poleon) to run at and get in behind defences.
Against Leyton Orient, we just couldn't find a way through, and in truth we didn't deserve more than a point - they had more chances.
We may urge McDonald to play like Lampard, i.e. aim to get into the box regularly, but it remains to be seen if he can adapt to such a role. It may be like asking Murphy to play as a target man, or Kitson as a nippy winger. Ideally players should be given roles which make best use of their good qualities.
I'm sure someone will suggest McDonald to play alongside Robson, but unfortunately I think we'd get overrun in midfield. When Forte or Murphy returns we'll have the chance to play two quick lads which may help us stretch teams more and find a better balance, but until then we may have to rethink and make a few tweaks.
Personally I would choose between Flynn and Robson in a wide role, I don't think it's ideal for us to have the slowest pair of widemen in the league. If Robson starts he should be told to try and create more from wide and avoid dropping deep into the domain of McDonald and Doyle.
While Robson has obvious qualities, the important thing is how the team works, offensively and defensively. We can't sacrifice the team's rhythm just to make Robson look good strutting his stuff deep in central midfield while we're lacking players further forward.
|Posted by Bergen Blade on January 14, 2013 at 6:25 PM||comments (0)|
Having now seen the Yeovil game I think fans have been slightly too harsh on individuals. The team selection was ok, but I think Yeovil's style surprised us. It looked like me that our pre match pep talk consisted of things like:
"Yeovil are going to make it hard for us, defending deep, getting men behind the ball and slowing the pace of the game down. We have to remain patient, but in the end we'll have enough quality to beat them. Just keep passing it and eventually they'll open up. Remember, be patient."
Instead they came out of the blocks with all guns blazing, pressed us all over the pitch, denied us from playing and not only that, they had excellent movement going forward. When they went forward they managed to have a lot of passes going to players who were running forward. Sometimes they went direct and played it up to a back to goal forward, but then he'd often knock it back to a midfielder who had already started a strong run and he'd find space between behind our midfield. They had loads of players who sprinted into space and most of them looked like they had the confidence and ability to beat a man when on the ball. At times it looked like they had 12 men.
In contrast we were very rigid, and lacked movement before a pass. Most of our players were standing still and had their backs to their goal when they received a pass. While they looked fitter than us I think the reason why they looked quicker and more up for it was more connected to them succeding in dictating how the game was going to be like. We thought the key would be to remain patient, they showed no respect and were aggressive and positive.
When we get shocked by the opposition like we were we need to quickly realise what's happening and then try to make tweaks to change things. This was a game where some managers (like diCanio or Uwe Rössler) make substitutions after 20 minutes. Sometimes it helps to just do something, anything to change the pattern of the game. Wilson could have swapped Murphy and Blackwell; moved Murphy wide, Flynn inside and played 4-5-1/4-3-3. As it happened we improved slightly after 15-20 minutes, maybe why Wilson didn't do anything. It was only a temporary improvement though and even straight after the break we struggled to deal with them.
In terms of personell I think McMahon's lack of overlapping is a big worry if we're sticking with Blackman on the right. McMahon is most of the time a standing full back, refusing or unable to run with the ball (oh, how we miss Lowton's composure, runs and creativity), although his right foot is decent and some fans will be happy with his contribution. Kitson's general play is a worry when he is playing against defenders who are bigger, stronger and fitter than him. Flynn is a technically sound player whose reading of the game and work rate means he does well defensively. His attacking play sufffers on poor winter pitches though, and I'd like to see someone with more pace come in and run into channells and be more direct.
Murphy got a couple of crosses in when he switched to the left, and I'd like to see him get a run there. In general we need more players who can make runs into space before they receive the ball. Players like Blackman, Flynn, McDonald and McMahon just want to receive the ball and then see what they can do with it. I think the player who is best equipped to add off the ball movement is Elliott Whitehouse, and I hope we try to get him included. I don't want him to just take on Doyle's role at the moment, in fact the next player I would look for would be a big, physical central midfielder to give Doyle competition.
Here's what I'd like to see tried:
McMahon Maguire Higginbotham McFadzean
Blackman Whitehouse Doyle McDonald Murphy
Subs: Coyne, Kennedy, Westlake, Flynn, Tønne, DeGirolamo, Ironside.
4-5-1, but with Doyle patrolling in front of the back four, the rest of the midfield could hopefully go forward more. Young, eager bench.
|Posted by Bergen Blade on January 5, 2013 at 6:00 PM||comments (0)|
Long term planning:
Wilson has again been very reluctant to use youngsters, and he’s only been willing to do it when he’s had no other option.
When first choice goalkeeper Mark Howard was injured Wilson seemed to want to get another experienced stopper in as soon as possible. The board wouldn’t let him, and so Long was given the shirt with George Willis going on the bench. Long took his chance well and made Wilson’s comments look silly. He really has been brilliant.
In defence Terry Kennedy has made his way to the bench, but didn’t get a minute’s playing time in 2012. Due to the loss of Collins and Maguire before the newyear’s day derby match at Doncaster, Kennedy had to play.
Lack of width has been a huge problem for the team this year, and although Wilson has had a few younger options like Chapell, McFadzean and Tønne he has been very reluctant to giving them run outs, let alone letting them start a game.
Instead he turned to an expensive one month loan player in Paul Gallagher and out of position players like McAllister, Williams, Cofie and Cresswell. From an attacking perspective (and wide midfield should be primarily an attacking position) the latter four have failed spectacularly and it remains a complete mystery why specialist, younger options haven’t been tried instead.
In central midfield Matt Hariott has also been overlooked. When he did get a chance, he was part of a young side that beat Notts County 4-1 away. Harriott did fine, yet Wilson seems scared to death of putting him on in a league game.
Sheffield United have invested a lot of time and money into the academy and have made public statements that say that they are a club that wants to build the team around players developed at Shirecliffe. After the relegation from the Championship the youth team’s getting to the final of the FA Youth Cup was something that gave fans a lot of hope for the future.
But the first half of 2012/13 was disappointing from the youngsters’ perspective, and Wilson will have to prioritise giving them more time on the pitch if they are going to play a part in our long term future.
It is not all bleak. A few months ago the youngsters seemed to only make up the numbers on the bench. If senior members like Cresswell, McAllister or Williams was on the bench they’d be the ones to be put on.
But lately Joe Ironside has been given a few substitute appearances. On newyear’s day he came on vs Doncaster and helped us get a draw. Kennedy and Whitehouse started that game, and the latter is someone Wilson has spoken highly of. Diego DeGirolamo is apparantly an outstanding talent who in time can’t be overlooked.
Hopefully there will be more as Wilson may now be realising that he can’t just wait till youngsters suddenly become ‘ready’ for the first team. Sometimes you have to play them to make them ready.
When it comes to recruitment Wilson has added experience in the form of McMahon, Hill, Kitson and Higginbotham, while Blackman, Miller, Westlake and Murphy are early 20s signings who can still develop. Combined with players from the academy the mix looks decent, but the club must still be careful about giving older players (Doyle, Cressy) longer contracts and Wilson must try to rotate the squad a little more.
The rest of the January transfer window will be interesting. Higginbotham looks like a solid signing (replacing the injured Collins) and Murphy may be a coup. Murphy may play on either wing and up front, as can Blackman, and together they’ll help cope with the loss of Miller. At the start of the season we looked to have a lot of strikers, but now that Miller’s out for the rest of the season, Cofie has been sent back to Man Utd, Porter may be on his way and Cresswell looks finished at this level, we will have to look for at least another forward.
Danny Wilson's position as Sheffield United manager is unthreatened. It shouldn't even be a topic for debate. Tthe Blades have a good chance of making a few tweaks with options within the squad and putting a few things right in this transfer window - even if that implies letting a current key member leave (please not more though!). Although we didn't win promotion, the 2011/12 season was so good that the board and the fans should remain patient even if the first half of 2012/13 hasn't all been great. As it stands, we're in a decent position to achieve promotion.
I wish Danny all the best and hope he's the one who takes us back to the Championship and eventually beyond. Generally he seems such a decent guy and is well liked by most who meet him, something that hasn't always been the case with our managers. A few adjustments should be made though.
|Posted by Bergen Blade on January 5, 2013 at 5:45 AM||comments (0)|
The football played in 2011/12 was excellent most of the time. The team had attacking threats from everywhere and was brilliant to watch. After being met with demonstrations on the day of his appointment, Wilson soon won over the fans and was rightly praised.
The football in the early stages of 2012/13 was rubbish to watch. The team lacked movement, pace and creativity and failed to get passing moves going. The defenders would often pass it between themselves for a while before being closed down by an opposition. Then a long, aimless hoof would be hit up to noone in particular.
Wilson went for defensive solutions when faced with a dilemma, much like the tendencies of Kevin Blackwell – and sometimes even Neil Warnock. The attacking contributions from the likes of McAllister, Williams and Cresswell when they were played in wide midfield were minimal. McDonald would often see Williamson and Quinn do something creative when he gave them the ball, while the three mentioned would at best manage a sideways or backwards pass, meaning the attack would have to start again. In the meantime any movement up front had stopped and the front two looked clueless.
As mentioned above Wilson managed to improve the entertainment value after few months when team selections became more positive. The boxing day injuries to Collins and Miller meant further changes have to be made to the set up though. Cofie was given another chance when asked to replace Miller, but failed again in the home defeat to Hartlepool, and Wilson will have to think long and hard about how to regain the attacking rhythm the team found in the last two months of the year.
|Posted by Bergen Blade on January 5, 2013 at 5:35 AM||comments (0)|
For most of 2011/12 Wilson had a pretty settled first eleven in his favourite 4-4-2 formation. He had a highly creative midfield, whose lack of out and out wingers were compensated by overlapping full backs. Up front Ched Evans scored goals if he was given some decent service.
In the summer Wilson lost a few players and with the transfer of right back Lowton and injury to Jean-Francois he lost his overlapping full backs. Williamson and Quinn leaving meant he lost creativity in midfield. Without Evans up front it was no longer the case that the team could just get the ball into the strikers feet and there would be a good chance it would soon hit the net.
Wilson’s response was to go for defensive solidity. He chose full backs in McMahon and Hill who were stronger defensively than going forward. In midfield he’d often go with players out of position in the wide positions. Central midfield grafter David McAllister played a lot on the right. Limited full back Marcus Williams were put on the left. We were even narrower than last season.
To provide the team with movement and pace Wilson hoped Nick Blackman and on loan youngster John Cofie would cause riot in opposition’s defences. It was an untraditional partnership for Sheffield United, who have usually played with a strong target man. The plan was to have two solid blocks of four and hope Blackman and Cofie would combine like Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke to score goals.
It didn’t work at all. The team lacked any sort of rhythm going forward. We created little from wide and the front two completely failed to form an effective partnership. The talented McDonald found himself with a lot fewer passing options and got frustrated. Fans felt long ball had returned. Defensively we were quite strong. Set pieces and Blackman’s goals meant we picked up points.
Eventually, Danny Wilson decided the team needed to change. He started using a target man again, and Blackman was put on the right wing. Shaun Miller was finally given a chance up front. It meant the attacking play and goal scoring improved, but the sudden changes also meant we conceded more goals and results were inconsistent for a while.
Before the transfer window Wilson commented that the team needed an injection of pace and width. Well observed, but a little late.
|Posted by Bergen Blade on January 5, 2013 at 5:25 AM||comments (0)|
The Blades were second in the table as they went into the new year. When you manage the biggest club in the division, have the biggest budget available and is the one to have signed or signed on all the players in the squad, expectations are going to be high. Being second means we have every chance of promotion and Danny Wilson will be reasonably happy with the position.
Wilson managed to avoid defeat until the tenth of November. We drew quite a lot of matches in August and September and struggled to score goals. In fact, for a long time we were among the lowest scorers in the division. But 1-0 wins in combination with a few draws meant a lot of points were picked up. October was a strong month for us, where six out of seven matches were won.
We were inconsistent in November. Although we started scoring more goals, we conceded more too. December was a solid month and United topped the table at Christmas. A solid boxing day win was however followed by a shocking home defeat to bottom club Hartlepool.
Tranmere were the early pace setters in the division. Six games without a win meant the Blades overtook them, but two wins at Christmas saw Tranmere regain the top position. They’ve been impressive, but it will still be a surprise if they go up automatically.
The teams bubbling behind the Blades include Doncaster, Brentford, Swindon and MK Dons. They have been inconsistent, but Wilson’s hasn’t managed a win against any of them so far. Bournemouth, Coventry and Crewe made poor starts to the season, but finished the year strongly and look likely to fight for the play off places at the very least.
12 wins, 10 draws and 3 defeats is decent and gives the Blades a good chance of pushing for promotion. Exits in the league and JPT cup were disappointing, but Wilson has a good chance of taking United into the fourth round of the FA cup.
|Posted by Bergen Blade on December 16, 2012 at 3:15 PM||comments (0)|
Nick Montgomery used to divide opinions among Unitedites. Some valued his hard work, others couldn't see past his technical limitations. When he's gone Ryan Flynn is another whose ability Unitedites can't seem to agree on.
To many people's surprise Ryan Flynn is top of the League One assist list with seven assists this season. Yet, a lot of Blades are tired of his lack of strength and pace and his inability to take full backs on and get crosses in from the byline.
In general I think there's a way to make most players work, as long as they have some minimum ability.
Ryan Flynn is usually a neat and technically good player who works hard and helps out his full back well. His lack of athleticism is his weakness. In our current prefered front six I think he can do ok, but it would help him if he was backed up by an athletic left back who was good at overlapping and crossing with his left foot. This would give us more width, while now Flynn usually either cuts in or passes it back to Hill or Doyle. An injury free and back on form Lescinel Jean Francois would be an improvement.
Although Nick Blackman on the other side is more of a dribbler, he also likes to cut inside, rather than go for the byline. From an attacking perspective it would also help Blackman if he was backed up by an overlapping full back (i.e. Westlake rather than McMahon). This could mean that we'd have decent width on both sides which would give the opposition a lot more space to cover. I believe that a well working right side would also help Flynn on the left hand side, and consequently also open up more space for our central playmaker Kevin McDonald as well.
Rather than discussing for ever about whether a player is good enough at the current level, we should look more at how we can compose a balanced team where players' attributes complement eachother and where their good qualities are being used to maximum effect.
|Posted by Bergen Blade on December 8, 2012 at 5:00 AM||comments (0)|
At the start of the season, the Blades didn't play well, but we always avoided defeat.
Danny Wilson didn't seem to have the confidence in his side to go out and dominate games. Instead, the tactics were defensive and based on keeping it tight. Our priority was to avoid conceding and then nick a goal through a set piece or the quality of individual players, rather than as a result of many chances and good attacking play.
It proved reasonably effective, although we struggled to win some home games. We kept a lot of clean sheets.
The entertainment was very poor, shown by:
We got into mid november before we lost a league match. Against MK Dons it looked like our solid defensive set up would give us another boring, but creditable 0-0 away draw. But in the 90th minute MK Dons were awarded a questionable penalty, which won them the game and gave us ouf first defeat of the season.
This was the catalyst for a change in Danny Wilson's approach. It seemed like he had waited for a defeat before he would change to a more attacking formula. Against Stevenage our full backs bombed forward on the overlap. Shaun Miller was finally given a start and scored twice. Nick Blackman added pace and dribbling ability on one wing. We ran riot and won 4-1. United fans were delighted.
Unfortunately, a sudden change of approach often brings instability. After the entertaining Stevenage match, we played Crewe and quickly went 2-0 up. But we looked vulnerable defensively. Crewe found a lot of space and at times overran us in midfield. By half time they had equalised and seemingly had us shocked. Our half time move was to go for solidity again. The hard working McAllister were put on the wing to help deal with their threats. In the end we drew 3-3, but we had come back down to earth.
We tried to shore up things defensively in the next match at Brentford. The not so fond of overlapping duo of McMahon and Hill were played at full back. We sat back and tried to soak up the pressure. It didn't work and by the first 30 minutes we were 0-2 down. Although we improved second half, we failed to score.
Since then we've had two cup games, beating Port Vale in the FA cup while being knocked out of the JPT cup by Coventry.
The slight change in approach has seemingly brought about inconsistent results with only two wins in the last seven games. Some may say that Wilson should have kept playing the defensive tactics. Others may blame Wilson for sticking with it too long, as the players suddenly had to adapt to a new style. More bravery and a bit more variation in the early stages may have gradually seen us adapt and improve without suffering a sudden loss in form.
|Posted by Bergen Blade on November 17, 2012 at 5:55 PM||comments (0)|
Blades - Stevenage 4-1
While we've picked up a lot of points, our attacking play has been poor this season. But yesterday things suddenly clicked for us. Some tweaks, some even enforced, saw us have a very decent line up today, and I'm delighted that it's just given us a superb win.
I've not (yet) seen the game, so for now I'm just commenting on how it was on paper. I think these adjustments gave us more offensively today:
When you get the balance right like today you have a good chance of making things work. A line up like today's would be well equipped to causing a cup upset against a Premiership side, and it should definitely do well in this division.
Maybe Blackman isn't delighted at having to play wide, and we have sacrificed some defensive solidity, but in sum I think we lined up a stronger team today. It sounded like the crowd enjoyed it too. One fan summed it up like this:
What about that today then boys and girls?
A simply sublime exibition which has totally blown our recent performances to bits and had echoes of how well we played last season.
I'll be honest, I didn't want that game to end today,we were playing that good. Normally, i'd err on the side of caution and not get so carried away but fuck it, i'm gonna enjoy my weekend after what I saw this afternoon which was topped off by one of the finest team goals i've ever seen at The Lane.
Twenty odd passes, a pinpoint cross and a beautifully headed goal by Porter, simply magical. There wasn't a weak player for us today as we totally swept aside a team who many believe are genuine play-off contenders.
Miller was marvellous and showed why most Blades have been calling for him to be included in the starting line up. Westlake looked very steady at right back and the midfield ran the show for once, great work boys. We looked dangerous every time we attacked and had Harry's effort from two miles out gone in instead of hitting the bar, I think the Kop roof would have lifted off.
More of the same from now on please Danny, lets grab the league by the throat and win the sodding thing.