Sheffield United – The Inside Look

Sheffield United host Leyton Orient in the first round of the FA Cup on Sunday afternoon looking to build on their unbeaten league run.

The Blades are unbeaten in the League since 20th August, sitting in fourth position in League One just three points behind second place.

Chris Wilder took over United in the summer after Nigel Clough was sacked in late May. Wilder decided to opt for United despite clinching the League Two title with Northampton last season.

Wilder’s Northampton side ran away with the League Two title however when the Blades came calling he stated “it was too good an offer to turn down”.

Wilder already has two promotions on his CV with Northampton (15/16) and Oxford (09/10) with Sheffield United hoping to be number three.

In a summer of change at Brammall Lane, Wilder brought in over 10 new faces but it took a while to adapt losing four of their opening five matches in all competitions. But after victory over Oxford in August, his side have only lost once in 13 matches (EFL trophy game to Walsall)


In early September, Wilder opted to change his predominant formation to a 3-5-2 system after the arrivals of Daniel Lafferty and Ethan Ebanks Landell. The system allows for the wing backs to have more freedom to push forward creating the width for their side.

However, despite Wilder using 3-5-2, most Blades fans will tell you that Wilder will change his formation before and during games, depending on how the opposition are playing against them.

Last Weekend


Starting Formation vs MK Dons last weekend


Within matches, Wilder is able to alter his formation to counteract what the opposition are doing such as too much space in the midfield. So last weekend against MK, he started with a 3-4-2-1 formation but after seeing that the Dons were having too much space in the middle of the park, he moved Chris Basham further forward .


Formation change after 20 minutes

Since the formation change to a 3-5-2 system, it has brought United’s 11 match unbeaten record in the league with John Fleck stating to change came ass we were not having enough control in the center of midfield”.

Wilder has stated on many occasions that he would like his team to be adaptable before matches and during matches so that he can combat and overcome the strengths of the opposition.

In their draw with Fleetwood at the start of October, Wilder’s team were losing 1-0 so he changed from a 3-5-2 system to a 4-4-2 system which in the end earned his side a point.

Within the 3-5-2 System

coutts-and-fleck-back-to-goalIn possession, the system becomes more of a 3-2-3-2 system with the back three splitting to create angles for passing while the two defensive midfielders, look to initiate the ball going forwards.


Paul Coutts and John Fleck are the men circled in the image below,  like to drop back to pick up the ball and pass the ball into the final third.




Formation in 1st half vs Fleetwood


Back 3/5 and the two deeper midfielders vs Port Vale

While Coutts an Fleck drop deep, Kieran Freeman and Daniel Lafferty provide the width going forward. The wing backs have high energy getting up and down the pitch putting crosses into the box to great effect throughout the season.


Lafferty in space on the left


Freeman in space on the right

The Strength of United’s crossing into the box – Crosses Into Box

Last weekend was the first match that striker Matty Done has missed through injury, when he plays in the 3-5-2 system, he plays alongside Billy Sharp in attack with Mark Duffy playing in he no 10 role just behind them.

Duffy described his position to “just off the front, sitting on their holding midfielder so he can’t dictate the game. It is attacking but defensive as well, helping to neutralise their strengths”


Formation when Done is playing


Midfield four with Duffy slightly ahead vs Bradford

Drawbacks of the System

In the system in allows the wing backs to give the side width but also presents the opposition with space on the counter attack down the sides of the defense. If the ball is sent forward quickly you can present yourself with a 3 vs 3 against the back three of United.

Coutts and Fleck will give the defense protection but if the midfield of the Blades is beaten, it gives a great chance of creating chances against them.


Midfield beaten vs Port Vale, presents a 4 on 3 advantage


Space on the flanks with the wing backs caught high up the pitch

If the ball is worked right, an overload can be created on the flank presenting an opportunity to put a ball into the box.


Overload created by Bradford


Midfield shape, space allowed behind Freeman

Playing three central defenders can also put them in a vulnerable position as they sometimes don’t like to defend in wide areas. Alongside this, incisive running from the opposition strikers can pull defenders across creating space on the opposing flank.


Defenders drawn over, space left at back post


Space at Fleetwood to attack

Matt Done and Billy Sharp

Sharp, the Blades captain has netted 10 of their 26 league goals and is their top scorer. Sharp has played at a higher level and has always had an eye for a goal. Sharp is a poacher inside the box, having that knack of being in the right place at the right time.

He always has the ability to hit the ball from long range but nine of his ten goals have come inside the box. Sharp also poses a threat from set pieces, scoring with two of his last five goals coming from corners.

Matty Done provides a perfect foil for Sharp, where he will run in behind defenses pulling them closer to their own goal creating space for Sharp. Done’s running in behind allows the creative players such as Scougall and Duffy to thread balls through to him. However, Done has only scored two goals this term with his finishing sometimes wayward.

Sharp will do most of his work inside the lines of the 18 yard box whereas Done is more than happy to run the channels for his side.

Sharp and Done’s Goals

Set Pieces 

United are very dangerous from set pieces whether that be corners or free kicks. In fact the Blades have scored four of their last six goals from set pieces.  10 of their 26 goals have been scored from set pieces (without penalties). 

Set Piece Threats and Goals

Orient will need to be weary of any free kick in their half on Sunday with the Blades highlighting that they will take them quickly and catch teams out. Players must stay switched on from every set piece or corner.

When United beat Port Vale 4-0 in October, two of their goals were scored by Ethan Ebanks Landell. A key point for Orient is Vale were marking zonally with Landell getting a run on his defenders twice.


Zonal Marking with Landell circled


Landell up well above the defender


Space again allowed when zonally marking

Set Piece Routines

Scunthorpe away earlier in the season, United scored a perfect training ground free kick routine. A brilliant piece of play which Wilder and assistant Alan Knill completed at Northampton last season.

Knill stated after the game to we have done it before for Northampton, there are so many different ways of doing it. We had Chris Basham in the wall, as they wouldn’t expect him to score. It was effortless but it will have to be put to the back burner with teams aware of us doing it. We will have to try something new and come up with something else however it is difficult to stop”

Set Pieces Routine – KEY

Key Points

  • Threat from set pieces
  • Done running in behind
  • The space behind the wing backs
  • Crosses into the box, closing down the space
  • Quick free kick and possibility of a routine

About mattbristow271993

Boyhood Leyton Orient fan, but love football in general, any league. Football is my passion.
This entry was posted in EFL, England, Football, Football League, League 2, Leyton Orient, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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