Nigel Adkins believes he has solved the conundrum about how best to utilise Jose Baxter’s talents.
But the solution, the Sheffield United manager admitted last night, could prompt another tactical change at Bramall Lane.
Baxter, arguably the most technically accomplished member of Adkins’ first team squad, is expected to make his 28th appearance of the season against Bury this evening after impressing during Saturday’s victory over Doncaster Rovers.
Despite being employed in a number of different roles following Adkins’ appointment eight months ago, the former Scunthorpe and Southampton chief told The Star: “Jose played in the number 10 position and I think that’s his position. That’s where he is best, for me anyway.
“To do that, you just have the one striker and I have endeavoured all season to have two strikers, so sometimes that affects the shape a little bit. But the lad has represented Everton so he’s clearly got something about him. That tells you all you need to know.”
Adkins, who was forced to sacrifice some of his attacking principles when United endured a difficult Autumn period, again emphasised the importance of being consistent, both in terms of tactics and team selection, when he addressed the media yesterday. But, if Baxter can continue to reproduce the form he showed at the Keepmoat Stadium, this will be one compromise the 50-year-old is delighted to make.
“He’s got that range of passing, which is important,” Adkins continued. “When you have got someone in behind the striker in the ten position and young Louis (Reed) getting the ball and playing, you need someone alongside him and we had the experienced Dean Hammond to do the donkey work at Doncaster and shore it up. I was really pleased.”
Despite refusing to divulge how eighth-placed United will approach their outing at Gigg Lane, Adkins added: “We always wants athleticism and, in fairness, Jose is athletic in different ways so perhaps we have got to look at ways of lessening his defensive responsibilities a little bit and getting him on the ball.”