Tactical football boff Chris Bland (@blandc_1996) reviews the weekend, picking out a series of themes he believes we can exploit in future weeks.
Weekend Debrief: 25th November 2019
Sheffield United’s squad depth a concern?
Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United side have certainly been impressive since their promotion to the Premier League, and the consistency the Blades boss has been able to show in his team selection has been key.
Sunday’s draw with Manchester United saw changes to his back five for the first time this term, with Phil Jagielka and Simon Moore replacing Dean Henderson and John Egan, and the question was whether they have the depth to continue their upward momentum ahead of a busy Christmas period.
But both incoming players stepped up with ease, with Jagielka particularly impressing at the back. However, if Sheffield United are to see further injuries or suspensions take their toll, how well equipped are they to deal with the potential problems?
With the majority of the squad starting every league game, opportunities have been limited to two League Cup games for the rest of the squad, which saw them defeat Blackburn, before being turned over by League One side Sunderland.
Making 10 changes for the defeat to Sunderland, it evidently disrupted the rhythm of the side, and Wilder’s tendency to stick with the same XI could mean that when called upon, the depth of the squad could fit in with ease, much like Jagielka did on Sunday.
At wing back, Kieron Freeman has shown in the past he is more than capable of performing in Wilder’s formation, whilst summer signing Ben Osborn’s attacking ability suits the wide play they pursue. Perhaps more suspect defensively, they would be able to slot in with ease, and shouldn’t cause an issue for Wilder’s side.
Jagielka showed his experience at centre back, as the Blades adapted brilliantly to his lack of pace, and problems only came when they were overloaded in a crazy 10-minute period by United’s attackers. Even so, past Jagielka, the options of Kean Bryan and Richard Stearman are unproven at Premier League level in recent years, and could be a worry for Wilder’s side if his back three is disrupted.
Wilder has shown a willingness to rotate up front, but when Lys Mousset went off injured, his side lost an element to their attack from his running in behind, and whether they have the required depth to adapt to any injuries from the Frenchman awaits to be seen.
Irish international Callum Robinson is an option up front, but has yet to really get going in the Premier League, and would need to step up if called upon.
It is the centre of midfield where the concern is particular, as replacing any of the three would be a tough ask. With the high energy of Wilder’s side, fatigue could start to play its part over the busy next month, and if he doesn’t show a willingness to rotate in these areas, it could spell trouble.
Muhamed Besic only has nine Premier League minutes to his name, and Luke Freeman has only started twice and been used off the bench a further four times. An element of rustiness could be expected from the likes of these players, so stepping up at short notice could be a big ask.
There are no guarantees this will be the case, but whether the squad depth is capable of stepping up and deputising over the busy period awaits to be seen, and I’d be a little cautious of getting too heavily behind the Blades as the fixtures pile up.
A trophy for Tottenham this term?
Jose Mourinho’s first game in charge of Tottenham went to plan for the Portuguese manager, heaping the pressure on Manuel Pellegrini as they secured a 3-2 win, courtesy of goals from Heung-Min Son, Lucas Moura and Harry Kane.
The clinical nature on the counter attack had been evident from Spurs’ performances at Liverpool and Everton in recent weeks, however Mourinho harnessed a match-winning performance from Dele Alli and saw his strikers on top form, as the attacking signs were much more promising.
The defensive frailties were evident in the second half, and Mourinho will be keen to see these rectified, and with more time to work on his side, and a busy period to test the squad out, it would be no surprise to see these improvements come.
As West Ham flooded players forward with nothing to lose, it became an issue for Mourinho’s men as they became overloaded, but there were still promising signs when the game was tight, and Mourinho will be keen to build upon this
January recruits are expected, and Mourinho’s link to super-agent Jorge Mendes is already seeing the likes of Ruben Dias and Bruno Fernandes linked, who would certainly add needed steel at the back and creativity in midfield to the side. With a couple of decent additions, it would be no surprise to see Spurs kick on.
It is important not to overreact to their first away win in the league this season, however the signs are promising, and Mourinho has proven that he can always deliver trophies when backed to do so.
It is important to remember that this is the same side on the whole that reached the Champions League final last season, and whilst it felt things had gone a little stale under Mauricio Pochettino, Mourinho should be able to breath a fresh life into the struggling side.
Mourinho will be keen to make an impact, and seeing Spurs challenge for a trophy this season would be no surprise. Interestingly, with Liverpool’s willingness to focus on the league and Champions League, and Manchester City themselves wanting a tilt at European glory, the FA Cup represents a strong option for Spurs.
Priced at 9/1 (Sportingbet), this certainly takes interest, and with a kind draw for Mourinho’s side, would be no surprise to see him prioritise this competition in search of silverware. Threats from the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United may only be if they navigate the early stages with a rotated squad, so it feels a good price at this currently stage.
FA Cup – Tottenham to win outright (9/1 Sportingbet)