Sheffield United set to experiment with different shapes when Slavisa Jokanovic arrives at Bramall Lane
Slavisa Jokanovic has reserved the right to tweak Sheffield United’s system next season, despite being told the club’s hierarchy would prefer him to adopt the same formation employed by his predecessor Chris Wilder before accepting the position last month.
United made their preference for retaining the 3-5-2 shape known during discussions with the Serb and his representatives, as they attempt to avoid an expensive and potentially disruptive makeover of their first team squad this summer.
The same request was issued to Alexander Blessin, who was also considered for the role, ahead of Jokanovic’s appointment.
Although both men confirmed they understood why it made sense to continue with those tactics - particularly as several members of United’s team were recruited specifically for that purpose - Jokanovic told HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud he wants to experiment with a number of subtle tweaks during this summer’s warm-up programme.
The message was also relayed to Jan van Winckel, the Saudi Arabian’s footballing advisor, who was an influential figure during the selection process.
Having worked in a number of different countries since retiring as a player, Jokanovic has a reputation for playing an attractive, attack-minded game plan. But he is also a pragmatist too, with his ideas on how to blend his philosophy with the club’s own impressing Prince Abdullah during their discussions.
Although Jack Robinson showed signs of getting to grips with the position towards the end of a campaign which saw United relegated from the Premier League - and suspicions that Rhys Norrington-Davies could also stake a claim when he returns from Euro 2020 duty with Wales - concerns about Jack O’Connell’s fitness have convinced Jokanovic they must trial other strategies.
Having undergone knee surgery in September, O’Connell’s absence undermined United’s bid to retain the top-flight status they achieved in 2019 - only three years after Wilder inherited a side which had just finished mid-table in League One. Norrington-Davies was an unused substituted during Wales’ draw with Switzerland on Saturday, although former United players David Brooks and Ethan Ampadu both featured.
Jokanovic has previously won promotion from the Championship with both Watford and Fulham.