Sheffield United identify the most likely cause of Rhian Brewster's struggles in front of goal
Paul Heckingbottom is aiming to help Rhian Brewster improve his tactical awareness after rubbishing the theory that a lack of effort is responsible for the centre-forward’s struggles with Sheffield United.
Signed from Liverpool in October for £23.5m, Brewster enters tomorrow’s game against Crystal Palace still searching for his first goal since completing that record breaking move from Anfield.
After being withdrawn during the half-time interval of United’s defeat at Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, analysis of Brewster’s performance in north London focused on footage of him failing to attack a series of potentially dangerous crosses into the opposition’s penalty box.
Although some critics claim this suggests the 21-year-old lacks desire, Heckingbottom does not believe industry is the issue after observing United’s most expensive ever player at close quarters in training.
“I can think of some balls where Rhian might have been there or got on the end of them,” Heckingbottom said. “I know the examples people have been talking about.
“But for me, that’s not workrate. That’s the understanding of how and where you are likely to receive the ball in the box from certain players.”
“In terms of finishing and actually striking the ball, Rhian is fantastic,” he continued. “But if you are waiting for chances, then it’s always going to be tough because they are so difficult to come by - particularly at this level.
“There’s nothing wrong with his finishing or attitude. Far from it. There’s just a tactical element that needs working on.”
Heckingbottom’s admission about Brewster’s grasp of United’s strategy is bound to raise eyebrows; particularly given he has spent seven months working with his colleagues at the Steelphalt Academy. But context is also important, with United’s policy of rotating their frontline likely to have slowed the process.
Having taken charge on an interim basis following Chris Wilder’s departure in March, Heckingbottom has attempted to make up for lost time by pairing Brewster with the experienced David McGoldrick; preferring to introduce Oliver Burke and Lys Mousset towards the end of games in an effort to exploit their pace.
“We’ve had conversations with Rhian, as you’d expect,” Heckingbottom said. “They’ve been really positive, and he’s a really bright and bubbly lad who wants to do well.”