After 12 long years, my beloved Blades are back in the big time!
Promotion last season was all down to the genius of the gaffer Chris Wilder, and I for one, am very confident that he can mastermind another unforgettable season and keep us in the top flight.
A season ticket holder at the Lane for over 15 years, I give my opinions (admittedly slightly biased ones at that) on what to expect this season from the Red and White Wizards!
Expected Line-ups and Formations
The Blades are going to stick to their guns and go for it this season. Chris Wilder is certain to use the 3-5-2 formation. The boss likes balance in his side and so you will always find left footed players on the left and visa versa.
I can however, see tweaks here and there.
The number 10 role will be sacrificed for a more defensive minded player. Due to his versatility, Basham played in midfield a few times last season when we went more defensive away from home. He also grabbed a vital goal from this position away at Leeds (some limbs after that one!) so there’s a potential for an odd game OOP.
I can also see Wilder going with one up top at times (McBurnie if signed) and playing two 10s (2 from Morrison/Freeman/Robinson) – giving us more bodies in midfield and the flexibility in transition to counter.
The back 3 and Hendo are nailed on – they combined to become the meanest defence in the Championship last season (conceding just 41 goals), including a mid season run of 7 consecutive clean sheets.
With Fleck and Norwood just as vital to that record, and the system as a whole, I also see those two playing the majority of games.Embed from Getty Images
A major feature you may have heard about is the use of “overlapping centre backs” – difficult to describe but even more difficult to defend against!
In the most simple terms, the outer centre backs (O’Connell and Basham) will link up with the wing backs and often overlap them to create an overload, where they will then have space to cross.
It works so well, because every player knows their job. When O’Connell bombs on, John Fleck will fill in and cover the space vacated. Norwood will do the same for Basham on the opposite flank.
It’s a high risk, high reward strategy that worked perfectly in the Championship. We’ll have to wait and see how it fairs in the Premier League!
Oli Norwood is the Blades’ set-piece specialist, providing goals and assist from dead balls last season.
Corners: Norwood (left), Fleck (right)
Penalties: Norwood, Sharp, McGoldrick
First 10 Fixtures
bou, CRY, LEI, che, SOU, eve, LIV, wat, ARS, whu
The first 10 games are a real mixed bag for United. Split them down the middle though, and the first 5 in isolation look promising. With many playing early wildcards, Blades players shouldn’t be overlooked for those early fixtures.
As with all newly promoted sides, it’s the home games where the points need to be won. With CRY, LEI and SOU coming to the Lane early on, there’s potential for points at both ends of the pitch.
FPL Assets To ConsiderEmbed from Getty Images
Jack O’Connell (£4.5m) – Part of that rock solid defence, the left footed centre back has been a massive part of our recent rise through the divisions, without him, the 3-5-2 system wouldn’t work. With 3 goals and 3 assists last season, JOC would have come out of last season with the most FPL points compared to his fellow £4.5m defenders.
John Lundstram (£4.0m) – Listed as a defender but 100% a midfield (FPL had a nightmare with this one!). I personally don’t see Lundstram getting a starting role, he only took part in 10 championship matches last season, but his bargain price, coupled with his minutes in pre-season have lead many in the FPL community to sit up and take notice of this potential bench warmer.
Chris Wilder – “We feel John Lundstram has a big part to play and he’s a young athletic player. This pre season he’s put himself right in our thoughts“
Callum Robinson (£5.5m) – A really exciting player who caused us many a problem whenever we met Preston over recent years. His versatility will be a major benefit to both Chris Wilder and FPL managers alike. Capable of playing in the number 10 position or even up top as part of a front 2, an OOP midfielder for £5.5m! Yes please!
Other notable players include Oli Norwood (£5.0m), our set-piece king and pen-taker (for now at least).
Enda Stevens (£5.0m), the most expensive of the Blades back line who could yet justify the high price tag with his attacking exploits. And Dean Henderson (£4.5m), who could become another Neil Etheridge, with the save point potential, and also an excellent penalty save record of 42%!
I would however, steer clear of the forwards though.
With Billy Sharp (£6.0m), David McGoldrick (£5.5m), Lys Mousset (£5.0m) and potentially Oli McBurnie (I’d predict £6.0m) all vying for two maybe even one spot, I see Wilder rotating a lot and dropping an extra man into midfield on occasions, it’s best to watch and learn when it comes to our striking options.