Sheffield United: German methods could unlock a play-off place
'˜Gegenpressing' has yet to enter the lexicon of buzzwords Nigel Adkins uses to identify, what he believes at least, are the essential ingredients of any successful team.
But, as Sheffield United prepare for Saturday’s pivotal encounter against Millwall, their manager is urging his squad to tear a leaf straight out of Jurgen Klopp’s playbook in a bid to secure Championship football next term.
Analysing last weekend’s victory over Oldham Athletic - which saw the South Yorkshire club climb to 11th in the table with 10 matches remaining, Adkins said: “ I’m looking forward to reviewing the game because I think there were some really good spells of pressing. People pressing individually but also, just as importantly, as part of a unit too. But to be able to do that, you’ve got to be fit.”
Adkins is expected to employ exactly the same tactics at The Den as United attempt to overhaul the six point gap separating themselves from Yorkshire rivals Bradford City, who occupy the fourth and final play-off berth.
With Neill Collins allowed to depart last week after negotiating a settlement on the remaining three months of his contract, the 51-year-old also appears destined to continue with his new 3-5-2 formation following Alex Baptiste’s arrival from Middlesbrough. The centre-half, whose emergency loan is scheduled to expire at the end of the season, demonstrated a sharp turn of pace during the meeting with Oldham. Something which Adkins’ appraisal of United’s recent defensive displays suggests he felt they lacked.
“We had three experienced centre-halves in there. Because the wing-backs are asked to get forward, the two wider ones of the three have got to be ready to pick out balls that come into the channels.
“Unfortunately, if you sit back too much, it gives the opposition too much space. It helps if you have a little bit of pace at the back.”
Although Jay McEveley and David Edgar, Baptiste’s defensive partners against Oldham, are all expected to be fit for the visit to London, Chris Basham is a doubt due to injury.
“I thought we were resolute at the back,” Adkins said. “Chris rocked his ankle in training and failed a fitness test on the morning of the game. But the three at the back, Alex, David and Jay, have done well. The lads are working hard on the training ground.”