Sheffield United, under Chris Wilder, have been deploying a wide three in attack: James McAtee on the right, Cameron Archer on the left, both as inside forwards, and then it looks as though Oli McBurnie will be utilised as the target forward in the centre of the trio.
While this 4-3-3 formation has rejuvenated the Blades, having performed well against Liverpool and Brentford, and causing issues for Chelsea, the squad depth to play this system isn’t exactly great.
Looking at the options, you would say Benie Traore could make an impact on the left wing, or right wing. Centrally, Will Osula looks as though he is the back-up for that role. Outside of those two, Wilder doesn’t many other options to select from. Perhaps Ben Osborn down the left as a more orthodox winger.
I know the financial situation at Sheffield United isn’t ideal, but I would personally take the risk of spending a decent chunk sum in January on a promising English talent. Yes it will probably cost around £10 million, but, worst case scenario we go down then we will be getting money coming in on the Cameron Archer buy-back deal anyway.
Who Sheffield United should target in January
Jonathan Rowe. He’s been on my radar for a while as a young English player to watch.
Playing for Norwich City in England’s second tier, Rowe has showcased his talent with an impressive start to the campaign, contributing seven goals and providing one assist in the opening 15 games.
His goal-scoring prowess places him ninth in terms of goal contributions in the Championship, while Norwich currently occupies the 10th position in the league.
Having been part of Norwich since the age of 12, Rowe has climbed through the ranks of the youth system at the club’s Colney training base. His dedication and development have earned him a crucial role in the squad.
Rowe’s stellar performance at the beginning of the season, including scoring five goals in five consecutive matches, led to him being recognised with the EFL’s Young Player of the Month award for his outstanding contributions in August.
Rowe, a right-footed, left-sided forward, demonstrates confidence and skill in abundance. His performance is notable, with a scoring rate of 0.62 Non-Penalty Goals (NPG) per 90, placing him in the elite percentile for forwards at his level. However, a point to consider is that he is overperforming relative to his statistics, as indicated by a 0.24 Non-Penalty Expected Goals (npxG) per 90.
This suggests that Rowe has been more clinical in front of goal than his expected output based on statistical measures. If he can position himself in areas to capitalise on more scoring opportunities, particularly in and around the box, there’s a possibility that he could sustain his impressive form throughout the season. Fine-tuning his positioning and decision-making in key areas might contribute to a sustained and even more impactful performance for the remainder of the campaign.
Rowe excels in changing pace at high speed, a valuable trait for a forward in the final third. Despite his height of 5’10”, Rowe leverages his low center of gravity effectively to glide past defenders, creating a threat against his opponents.
His effectiveness is particularly evident in and around the box, where he showcases his strength. His confidence in advanced attacking positions is reflected in his average of 4.88 touches in the attacking penalty area per 90. Operating as the left-sided forward in David Wagner’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, Rowe plays a crucial role in progressing the ball into the attacking third. With an average of 4.26 progressive carries per 90.
With the system that the Blades currently play, Rowe could slot in down the left, and as a result, Archer could then move back to a central position. While Archer has played really well in his new role, playing him out wide is taking away his biggest strength: finishing. Then McAtee would remain on the right.
Under Wilder Sheffield United have showcased a far greater counterattacking threat than under Paul Heckingbottom. This front three could greatly improve that even more.
All stats taken from FBref.