Analysis: What could Sheffield United expect from Callum O’Hare?

Sheffield United are hoping to sign Callum O’Hare after his contract with Coventry City expired earlier this month, per The Star. The 26-year-old is rumoured to be keen on joining the Blades where he could potentially reunite with his former Coventry teammate Gustavo Hamer.

During O’Hare’s final full campaign alongside Hamer (O’Hare missed most of the 2022/23 season due to a severe injury), the pair conjured up 25 Championship goal contributions out of Coventry’s 60 goals that term.

O’Hare scored ten goals and served up four assists in all competitions last season, including a goal during the Sky Blues thrilling FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United.

Throughout his career O’Hare has played as a left-winger, right-winger and as an attacking midfielder but there’s no doubt he is the most effective when he is played as a number ten. He has registered 21 goals and 30 assists in 132 appearances from that position.

Leicester City and West Ham United have been linked with the Solihull-born man but nothing concrete has been submitted by either side. Instead, it looks more likely the player will join a promotion contender with both Burnley and Sheffield United showing strong interest.

There have been issues raised regarding Callum O’Hare’s injury record, however, the only point of concern is that he missed 50 games across the 2022/23 campaign due to a mixture of a hamstring strain and an ACL injury, per Transfermarkt. Other than that his injury record is pretty clean.

Why Sheffield United are interested in Callum O’Hare

The Blades could be looking at a midfield trio consisting of Oli Arblaster, Gustavo Hamer and Callum O’Hare. That undoubtedly would be one of the best midfields in the Championship, the only question is: would it work off the ball? That really does depend on what the primary system will be, but, what I do know is you have two players in Hamer and O’Hare that are prepared to do the hard yards and hassle defenders when they are in possession.

Last season compared to other Championship attacking midfielders, O’Hare ranked in the 82nd percentile for tackles with the vast majority of those coming in the middle third of the pitch. Additionally he ranked in the 92nd percentile for percentage of dribblers tackled, highlighting that his work rate off the ball is very good.

One of O’Hare’s strengths is his ability to receive the ball in advanced tight spaces and actually keep hold of it (similar in a way to Iliman Ndiaye). He ranked in the 83rd percentile for touches in the attacking third while also ranking in the 87th percentile for offensive duels. What that essentially means is that he is often shielding the ball from the defender and trying to swivel and keep the attack moving.

While receiving the ball in tight areas of the pitch, sometimes with back to goal, the 26-year-old is adept at drawing fouls from the opposition defenders, ranking in the 84th percentile for fouls drawn.

Once he is in the final third, the former Coventry man can use his dribbling abilities to unlock shooting opportunities for himself and for his teammates. While O’Hare has poor take-on numbers, ranking in the 34th percentile, the majority of his shot-creating actions and goal-creating actions are in fact via a take-on, ranking in the 76th percentile and 99th percentile.

O’Hare has the ability to open up a defence via a pass, but most of his good creative work is done after a successful dribble. He ranks in the 67th percentile for key passes and 77th percentile for expected assists.

As mentioned earlier, the 26-year-old is far better when he is deployed as a number ten rather than out wide. With him playing behind the striker/s it allows him the freedom to drift wide to either wing to help create overloads, similar to what Mark Duffy used to do for the Blades. You can see his heatmap from last season in the image below, he does not shy away from either flank. And funnily enough, despite being known as a central attacking midfielder, the more advanced you get the least heat spots you see in the centre of the pitch.

One thing he must improve on once he gets into the wide areas is his quality of crossing; he performs below average in the completed crosses metric ranking in the 47th percentile. However, with the potential presence of Oli McBurnie or Kieffer Moore in the box that number could naturally improve anyway.

Something O’Hare has really worked on over the last few years is his decision making of when to shoot and the overall quality of his shooting. What was previously a weakness is now seemingly a strength. Last season he ranked in the 90th percentile for shots on target percentage as well as 81st for goals per shot, meaning he is very accurate and clinical in front of goal now.

COVENTRY, ENGLAND – MAY 04: Callum O’Hare of Coventry gestures during the Sky Bet Championship match between Coventry City and Queens Park Rangers at The Coventry Building Society Arena on May 04, 2024 in Coventry, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images) (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 21: Callum O’Hare of Coventry City scores his team’s second goal during the Emirates FA Cup Semi Final match between Coventry City and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium on April 21, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

How the Blades could use O’Hare

If Sheffield United do sign O’Hare then it will be very interesting to see how Chris Wilder would utilise Hamer and O’Hare given Hamer was often the one who drifted to either flank last season to make full use of his excellent delivery qualities, but this is also a tendency in O’Hare’s game.

I do feel as though the team would benefit from having O’Hare as the one who can drift to either wing to create overloads, and then have Hamer pulling the strings in midfield with Arblaster.

If United can secure the potential signings of Harrison Burrows and O’Hare then it would cause some huge headaches for the opposition. With O’Hare pulling out to the left and threatening to cut inside, Burrows can make an overlapping run, and while this is all going on Hamer could be lurking on the edge of the box ready for a cut back. And the same could be said down the right with Jayden Bogle overlapping.

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