James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Worrying theories about English football

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Disturbing, distressing and a damning indictment on the English game.

No, not the psychedelic away kit Sheffield United sported throughout the 1995/96 campaign.

I’m referring, of course, to the growing calls for David Weir’s side to ‘go direct and hit it long.’ Several of which found their way into my inbox earlier this week.

Yes, there are often plenty of ways to solve a problem. You can have too much, as even Barcelona discovered at times last term, of a good thing.

Rather it was the reasoning behind these electronic missives which left me feeling lower than a kid who got that yellow and purple monstrosity for Christmas. The claim that United enter tomorrow’s meeting with Preston North End 22nd in the nascent League One table because they insist on playing a passing game rather than percentages. Or, if you want the exact quote, “are too bothered about being clever rather than getting it straight into the box. That’s what it takes.”

An idea which, taken to its logical conclusion, means we are prepared to accept the vast majority of folk paid to play football in this country are incapable of controlling or manipulating a ball. And Greg Dyke still thinks we’ve got a chance of lifting the 2022 World Cup.

That’s not to say United don’t have serious issues which must be urgently addressed. By David Weir’s own admission, they have yet to discover a formula which delivers pleasing performances and points.

Weir’s charges have conceded an average of 2.43 per game this season and scored only six goals despite enjoying a possession level of 52.8. But the idea that ‘going long’ - which can work at times - represents a magic cure is as ridiculous as suggestions managers who prefer 4-5-1 are more conservative than those deploying a 4-4-2.

It might appear that way on paper. Resonate on the radio. Sound good down the pub. But completely ignores the fact formations are fluid. Not to mention that, if you don’t have a centre-forward worthy of the name, (and that’s not a dig at Lyle Taylor or Chris Porter), it can be the difference between effectively playing with nine outfield players or eight.

I still say that United aren’t a million miles away from being a pretty dangerous team. Especially if Marlon King can bring power and presence to their attack.

*Twitter: @JamesShield1