Sheffield United: Blades drop strategy hint ahead of Watford visit
Watford, even by Quique Sánchez Flores' own admission, will pose Sheffield United a very different kind of test to the one they faced - and very nearly passed - when Liverpool visited Bramall Lane last weekend.
But as his team prepare for Saturday's visit to Vicarage Road, where they are set to encounter a team still waiting for its first win of the new Premier League season, Chris Wilder is planning to implement almost the exact same strategy which gave the reigning European champions the fright of their lives. With, the United manager admitted, the odd tweak here and there.
"We defend as a team, defend as a ten and attack as an eight or a nine," Wilder said, reflecting upon his team's performance against Liverpool and looking forward to its trip to Hertfordshire. "We have to be patient. We didn't want gaps for them to break through. You've all got to play well to get anything against a team like Liverpool. I thought we'd got the balance right. If I'd turned that into a game of basketball, we'd have got murdered."
Drilled on the training ground to work as a unit, where the majority of their moves are choreographed in minute detail, United are a squad greater than the sum of its individual parts. So Wilder's demand they track back and surge forward in as big a numbers as possible makes perfect sense. Particularly when facing the best in the division.
Having taken two points from their opening seven matches, Watford can not claim to be among the competition's finest. But they are established at top-flight level and, after reaching May's FA Cup final, eminently capable of delivering results.
Nevertheless, with the confidence of Flores' players at a very low ebb, United are expected to approach the fixture with slightly less caution than they demonstrated during the opening exchanges of their meeting with Liverpool; who finished the afternoon with their unblemished record still intact following Dean Henderson's second-half error. Then, with Jurgen Klopp selecting 10 members of the starting eleven which beat Tottenham Hotspur in May's Champions League final, Wilder instructed his charges to focus on keeping their shape before trying to impose themselves as the afternoon progressed. They did and, until Henderson allowed Georginio Wijnaldum's shot to squirm through his legs, appeared destined to claim at least a draw. Or even, given the fact they were in ascendancy at the time, more with John Fleck and Oli McBurnie causing them Klopp's men plenty of problems.
"Their chances have come from our mistakes, first-half, Wilder said. "We have to have that about our game. We had to try and make it difficult for them, and I think we did. We have to take those opportunities when they arise."
"That's something we need to do moving forwards," he added. "Because although everybody says it, there really is no such thing as an easy game at this level. That's the level we've stepped into. And that's why balance is so important."