After a 4-1 defeat away to Walsall, and a 2-2 draw at home against Gillingham – a result which left manager Chris Wilder incensed in his post-match interview with the BBC – United have hit what some have considered a blip. However, having attending both games, it think it is only right to provide some perspective on the situation.
Before the Walsall game, United had earnt themselves a ridiculous 55 points from a possible 66 – an incredible feat. Wilder has certainly turned the club around, imprinting a winning spirit around the place. It had seen a reconnect between the terraces and the team – something epitomised by the disappointment that some feel in losing one and drawing the next. The team and the fans again believes they are good enough to win every game – a sentiment which has not been created on blind faith. Over the two games, the side has not played awfully by any means. In the Walsall game United had the bulk of the possession, however were picking off by the Wallsall counter. Against Gillingham The Blades had the ball in the net 4 times and were unlucky not to take all 3 points if not for a lacklustre end to the game.
However I do believe there has been one overarching issue to take from recent games. In the last 3 games, the defence has leaked 8 goals – not an average any side vying for promotion wants. I would put this mainly down to the fact that Jake Wright has not been operating at the heart of the defence. However the loss of Lafferty has also been a blow, with his consistency this year proving crucial.
Thinking about it logically, I would argue that playing 3 centre halves means the man in the middle of the 3 operates as a sweeper. The two either side can then operate as the defence’s enforcers, however only when the middle man has the brains required to read the game and mop up anything which drops in behind. I would argue that Wright is the only one with the experience, nous, footballing intelligence and leadership to play this role. The man is yet to lose a game in a Blades shirt, and I would argue that this is due to his organisation skills and leadership – it is clear to see why he was Oxford’s captain last season. Ebanks-Landell who has took this role for the last few games just doesn’t command the same experience, distribution, leadership and nous that Wright does. For me, his move into the middle has exposed the limits to his game. Many of the goals have come from his inability to clear things up and track runs in behind the defence. He is a battering ram, which is ideal for the two centre back roles either side. However he is simply not good enough to play in the middle, he is your standard big and robust centre half – enough to get us out of the league. However we use him in a way which suits his qualities.
Not only this, Wilder himself has made some errors in the games. Bringing Lavery off sucked all the momentum out of the game against Gillingham, and persisting with Done at left back was something Adkins was lynched for.
However, I trust things will be back to normal soon – Wilder didn’t fluke those winnings runs. His interview with the BBC showed that he will not stand for such performances, and will be ruthless in his quest for success with ‘nobody being exempt from criticism’. He has quite clearly built a quality side, one which both he and the fans believe can win every game. The man is certainly not daft and views the game in the same manner as many fans – he calls a spade a spade. And this is exactly the attitude that I believe will bring the Blades success. Now, its time to put things right against Fleetwood.
Written by: @tfjournalism
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