Since the return of Chris Wilder, Sheffield United have switched up their tactical plan and shape, which has seen some better results and performances than the Blades served up towards the end of Paul Heckingbottom’s tenure.
When Wilder was linked with the job many supporters were quick to mention the old 5-3-2 system with overlapping centre-backs, however, it’s evident he has moved away from that stapled setup.
What Wilder and Alan Knill have brought to the table this time around is a regimented 4-3-3 shape, which can be easily manipulated into a 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1.
One notable improvement since the new coaching team has come in is the midfield area. Vinicius Souza has looked far better since Wilder and co walked through the door, despite still having moments of lapse in concentration.
Gustavo Hamer, another one that’s looked better, but that’s simply because he’s now being played as a box-to-box midfielder rather than as a left-winger.
The surprising addition to the team has been Andre Brooks, but his overall performances have been no surprise to me. Having watched him in the development team for a number of years, it’s always been obvious that he has serious potential, and I’ve been vocal about that on social media for a good while.
While Brooks adds athleticism, work-rate on both sides of the ball and the ability to carry the ball, United are asking him to step up a lot over these past few weeks. Which is why I am half expecting the Blades to potentially look for a short-term loan this window.
Sheffield United have Tom Davies on the injury list, when he’s back, I’d imagine he’d be the sub option to replace Hamer if we’re looking to protect the result. While I expect Oli Norwood to be the sub option for Souza. Who’s there to challenge or take some of the workload off Brooks? Fleck? I’d hope not. Osborn?
If Sheffield United are to terminate the loan of Luke Thomas I would be knocking on Chelsea’s door right now for Andrey Santos, who looks all but set to be recalled from Nottingham Forest due to lack of game time.
There have been several reports linking Newcastle with a loan move for the Brazilian midfielder, however, given Lewis Hall is on loan there, that loan transfer cannot happen, which opens up the door for the Blades.
Why Andrey Santos?
Todd Boehly hasn’t hesitated to spend money at Chelsea, and Santos has proved worthy of his fee of £18 million. The 19-year-old had been a key part of Vasco’s midfield during their promotion season back to the Brasileirão.
Following the transfer to the Blues, he captained Brazil’s U20’s team to success in the South American Youth Championships, solidifying his highly-regarded talent. He already has that big game experience, and his pedigree isn’t even debatable.
One thing that stands out about the youngster is his ability to cover all three roles of a midfield three, which is what the Blades deploy at the moment. By that I mean he can act as a sitting midfielder, a number eight and as a more advanced playmaker, or a number 10 as some people call it.
He already has the tendencies of a world class player, constantly scanning over his shoulders to get a good vision of the game. He understands the concept of spacing: creating space for others, creating space for himself, but also the creation of overloads in wide areas. To add, he’s capable of receiving the ball back to goal, on the half turn, and with both feet. It might not sound like much, but in actuality, being able to receive the ball like that can unlock most of the pitch.