Sheffield United set for a change of formation against Southampton as injuries and suspension bite

Sheffield United are contemplating a change of formation when Southampton visit Bramall Lane, after seeing injury and suspension leave them with only two fit centre-halves for the meeting with Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side.

Friday, 5th March 2021, 4:00 pm

With Chris Bashsm, Jack O’Connell and John Egan still undergoing treatment for fitness issues, the decision not to appeal the red card Phil Jagielka received during Wednesday night’s win over Aston Villa means Kean Bryan and Ethan Ampadu are both certain to start tomorrow afternoon’s Premier League game.

Having switched to a back four when Jagielka was controversially dismissed, manager Chris Wilder admitted he could be forced to mothball the 3-5-2 system which has become his trademark over the past four-and-a-half seasons for longer than first anticipated.

But he dismissed suggestions that could prove challenging for a squad and coaching staff which has spent the best part of five years playing another way.

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“Yes, we will consider a change,” Wilder said, confirming Basham and fellow defender Jayden Bogle could return to action against Leicester City next weekend. “We have got it in the bag to coach other systems. We can be flexible.

“Ideally we wouldn’t want to (change it), because of the continuity and relative success we’ve had with it over the years. But it’s something we’re looking at, definitely.”

Bryan and Ampadu, aged 24 and 20 respectively, excelled themselves during the closing stages of United’s clash with Villa - helping Wilder’s side overcome their numerical disadvantage to claim only their fourth win of the Premier League campaign. Although they remain at the bottom of the table, that result saw United close the gap between themselves and 17th place to 12 points with 11 matches remaining.

Bryan, previously of Manchester City, has been told by Wilder he can use his unexpected opportunity to earn a contract extension over the summer. Ampadu, on loan from Chelsea, boasts 20 caps for Wales.

Ethan Ampadu of Sheffield United tussles with Trezeguet of Aston Villa during the Premier League match at Bramall Lane: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“In a back four, two young centre-halves did well dealing with the constant pressure,” Wilder said. “Modern day players have to be good at picking up different systems. We’ve got some internationals, who play different formations with their countries.”

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Kean Bryan celebrates Sheffield United's victory with goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale: Andrew Yates/Sportimage
Phil Jagielka of Sheffield United reacts after being shown a red card during the Premier League match between Sheffield United and Aston Villa at Bramall Lane: Stu Forster/Getty Images