Oli Norwood and Vinicius Souza have partnered each other ten times across the first 12 Premier League fixtures, and although they have had their positive moments in games, I can’t help but feel like they are holding each other back, and in effect holding Sheffield United back.
They have different playing styles, but they also take up the same positions, sometimes it looks like they get in each other’s way when the Blades are in possession.
This is a conundrum that Paul Heckingbottom and his coaching team will have to resolve as they prepare for crucial games against Bournemouth and Burnley after this international break.
If you take Norwood out of the team you lose the ability to beat the press and the ability to orchestrate from deep. On the flip side, if you take Souza out of the team then you will lose his combativeness and strength in the holding midfield position.
Oli Norwood or Vinicius Souza?
I think it’s time to play one or the other. And I’m going with Oli Norwood over these next couple of games for a number of reasons.
Sheffield United are at home to Bournemouth. I know we average the second-lowest ball possession in the league (38% – SofaScore) but this is one of few games this season where we should be the ones dictating the play, and Norwood would considerably help with that.
Another reason I’m giving the edge to Norwood is because he’s currently sitting as the second-best player in the Premier League when it comes to counterpressing actions (25), only behind Liverpool’s Dominik Szoboszlai with 29, per Soccerment. Souza is way down the list with 12, but he is United’s third best player in that respect.
This is something to take into consideration over the next couple of fixtures because winning the ball high up the pitch could be a strong avenue for the Blades as Bournemouth have registered five errors leading to shots, three of them have led to goals. Burnley have an identical record.
Who takes his place?
One of the weaknesses is his mobility with the ball, which impacts his ball carrying, or lack of. In the ten games he’s played in the league, he hasn’t registered a single progressive carry. Meanwhile, the Brazilian ranks in the bottom 7% for progressive carries [FBref].
As good as they are as players individually, they really shouldn’t be paired together in the Premier League I feel. Neither can dribble the ball up the pitch or beat the press with a carry.
It does say a lot that the Blades haven’t even hit 100 progressive carries on the season yet, unsurprisingly making them the worst team in the division in that statistic, with the next worst, Crystal Palace, totalling 165.
We already have two players in James McAtee and Gustavo Hamer that have already demonstrated their ball carrying capabilities, but we have already seen a midfield three of Norwood, McAtee and Hamer get completely annihilated.
Against Bournemouth, I would like to see Norwood and Hamer as the pivots with Cameron Archer and McAtee as the number 10’s, and Oli McBurnie welcomed back as the focal point.
It would be a very attacking side, but that’s how United have to tackle this fixture with it being at Bramall Lane.