The tactical battle facing Leeds United as Marcelo Bielsa prepares for Sheffield United

In the latest of a series for the Yorkshire Evening Post, Jon Mackenzie - from All Stats Aren't We - takes a deeper look at Leeds United's next opponents - Sheffield United.

Friday, 2nd April 2021, 11:49 am
Sheffield United celebrate at Bramall Lane. Pic: Getty

How things can change in the course of a season. Last time around, Sheffield United were wowing everyone with their overlapping full-backs and their no-nonsense manager Chris Wilder.

Fast-forward a year and the Blades have plummeted down the table, are heading for the Championship and have parted company with Wilder. In what feels like some sort of nostalgia trip to a time when Leeds were miserable, Sheffield United have installed Paul Heckingbottom as their interim manager.

Here are three aspects of Heckingbottom’s system to look out for tomorrow afternoon:

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What can we say?

Given the events of this season, it’s difficult to know how to approach Sheffield United.

With the club being so dependent upon Chris Wilder, a Wilder-less Blades feels like something of an oxymoron.

Does Heckingbottom try to keep the best bits of the Wilder era? Or does he tear up the copybook and go back to basics?

In many respects, heading into tomorrow’s game, we are stepping into the unknown.

What structure?

During their time in the Premier League, Sheffield United have utilised their famous 3-5-2 formation with the outside centre-backs pushing up to help out the attack with the defensive midfielder sitting to protect the space they leave behind.

In the games under his tenure, Heckingbottom has retained the same 3-5-2 formation.

This will see Marcelo Bielsa respond with a 3-5-2 of his own with a pair of strikers to press the three Blades centre-backs and a back-three to deal with Sheffield United’s own strike partnership.

Pat’s partner

The biggest question raised by this 3-5-2 structure for Leeds will be who should partner Patrick Bamford up front.

Last time out, Jack Harrison was used as a partner but, with the Leeds squad looking a little different this time around, we could see Tyler Roberts pushed into that spot.

Most likely, though, we’ll see Harrison preferred with Gjanni Alioski and Raphinha used as wing-backs with Roberts used ahead of Stuart Dallas and Kalvin Phillips in midfield.