How 'stressful' Sheffield United are getting into teams' heads

Some people believe it is down to team spirit. Others, a pioneering system which, despite being tweaked over the past few months, remains one of the most tactically adventurous in the Premier League.

Monday, 23rd December 2019, 8:06 am
Brighton and Hove Albion manager Graham Potter before his team's defeat to Sheffield United

But speaking after his Brighton and Hove Albion team became the latest top-flight side to succumb to Sheffield United, Graham Potter revealed Chris Wilder’s players not only pose opponents physical problems. They ask them psychological questions as well.

Acknowledging United’s strong start to Saturday’s contest at the AMEX Stadium had picked apart the ties which bind Albion to their home support, the former Ostersunds and Swansea City manager said: “It took about 20 minutes for the pressure to come, from the crowd.

“Because Sheffield United attack quite directly, and down the sides they can overload you, it creates a feeling of stress.

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Sheffield United's David McGoldrick (right) celebrates with his team mates as Brighton and Hove Albion's Lewis Dunk (left) appears dejected at the end of the Premier League match at the AMEX Stadium, Brighton. PA Photo. Gareth Fuller/PA Wire.

“I want to say we weren’t good but I also want to say Sheffield United were good.”

Potter’s confession provided a different insight into the reasons behind United’s flying start to the new season following their promotion last term.

Although Oli McBurnie’s effort midway through the first-half proved enough to settle the contest - the centre-forward worked under Potter at the Liberty Stadium - the visitors had already seen a goal ruled-out by VAR when John Egan was adjudged to have handled the ball before bundling it past Albion’s Matthew Ryan.

Wilder, whose squad now enters Boxing Day’s fixture against Watford searching for its fourth straight win, later described the decision as “harsh” but conceded officials at Stockley Park were correct to rule Jack O’Connell as offside when he turned home from close range following McBurnie’s effort.

Potter, who conceded United’s approach had prevented Albion from establishing a foothold in the game, continued: “Sheffield United aren’t zonal, like some. They are more ‘man focused’.

“But ultimately we didn’t play as well as we would have liked. They do what they do well.

“We’re not the only team that has found it difficult to play against them at home. Then, when the score line goes against you, it compounds that feeling of stress.”

The result means United remain unbeaten away from home since January, when City prevailed 1-0 in South Wales thanks to a McBurnie finish. Six months later, the Scotland international became United’s record transfer signing when he completed a £20m move to Bramall Lane.

“Credit to Sheffield United, they did what they did better than us,” Potter said. “They always pose you a question and they always look to stay in the game.

“We clearly weren’t at our best. As a collective, we need to hold our hands up and admit we weren’t good enough. That includes me.

“If you don’t play well in the Premier League, then there’s a good chance you’re going to lose.”