Sheffield United: 'If you want that kind of coach, it's not me,' says Slavisa Jokanovic
Slavisa Jokanovic will not bow to pressure and adopt a more conservative tactical approach in order to try and help Sheffield United climb the Championship table.
The Serb, whose side are preparing for this weekend’s game against Blackpool in 14th position, faced calls to change his game plan following Sunday’s visit to Barnsley - where United nearly surrendered a three goal lead during the closing stages of the contest.
But Jokanovic has told The Star that he believes it is always better to try and build or maintain momentum rather than curb it, saying: “I am not the kind of coach who will ask their players to drop deep and try and simply defend. If you want the kind of coach who does that, then that isn’t me. If we are winning 3-0, then I will always prefer to try and score the fourth goal and then the fifth. That is the kind of coach and person I am.”
Jokanovic’s ability to construct teams which are as easy on the eye as they are effective was one of the main reasons why, when the managerial position at United became vacant last season, he was the overwhelming choice among supporters to lead the rebuilding process following the club’s relegation from the Premier League. A combination of factors, including a lack of progress at the beginning of the transfer window, exposed the flaws in the argument that he had inherited the best squad in the division. United’s failure to deliver any new players until the competition had already started also condemned Jokanovic and his assistants to spending more time than was necessary working on improving the confidence of a group which had finished bottom of the top-flight rankings only three months earlier.
The psychological damage inflicted during a campaign which saw United beaten 29 times in 38 outings was almost certainly responsible for their panicked reaction when Markus Schopp’s side netted what should have been a consolation effort towards the end of an unnecessarily hard-fought victory two days ago. Seemingly cruising across the finishing line after efforts from Lys Mousset (2) and Ben Osborn had put them in control, Devante Cole’s strike for the hosts sparked a panic reaction from United. Instead of simply being a consolation, it nearly proved to be the catalyst for a remarkable comeback with Aaron Leya Isaka leaving the outcome balanced on a knife-edge when he also netted soon after.
Despite insisting he prefers to encourage creativity rather than suffocate it, Jokanovic’s view of football is more nuanced than his comments might suggest. Of the 14 league fixtures United have contested under the 53-year-old since he started work in July, they have enjoyed the majority of possession in all but one - August’s stalemate at Swansea City. Even dominating the ball in their next game - a 4-0 defeat by West Bromwich Albion - Jokanovic believes using it more intelligently is the key to avoiding scares such as the one they experienced at Oakwell. Not inviting pressure by simply bringing on defensive minded players, although centre-half Chris Basham was introduced during the closing stages there.
“If you have it (the ball) then you should be able to dictate,” Jokanovic said. “Providing it is used correctly and you think clearly.”