Sheffield United: 'Smarten up or forget about going up' The Blades are warned

Slavisa Jokanovic has insisted Sheffield United must accept collective responsibility for the defensive fragility which is undermining their push for promotion from the Championship, after confirming that improving the number of clean sheets his team keeps is the priority ahead of Saturday’s game against Blackpool.

Wednesday, 27th October 2021, 5:00 am

United’s porous rearguard has become a source of frustration at Bramall Lane, with even a woefully out-of-form Barnsley side threatening to come back from three goals down when they visited Oakwell last weekend.

Jokanovic acknowledged his squad must tighten up at the back if they are to stand a chance of finishing inside the top six immediately after that match. But rather than blame their centre-halves and full-backs for “giving opponents oxygen”, United’s manager told The Star that everyone at the club, himself included, must seek to address the issue or risk seeing their dream of making an immediate return to the Premier League go up in smoke.

“Yes, there are some individual mistakes,” Jokanovic said. “But I don’t like to talk about ‘this’ player or ‘that’ player. I prefer, no matter what the situation, to talk about the team and the group.

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Sheffield United don't have a problem scoring goals any more, but stopping them is becoming an issue: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

“If we attack, it is about everyone on the pitch at that time. Everyone has a part in that, through what they do or communication with each other. So it is the same when we defend. It is again, from my side, about 11 players. Not individual ones or specific people.”

United have shut-out only three of their opponents in the league since being relegated from the top-flight earlier this year, with Derby County the last side to fail to score against them after visiting South Yorkshire on September 25. The other two - Swansea City and Luton Town - both faced Jokanovic’s men in August.

By contrast, early pace-setters AFC Bournemouth have already kept eight clean sheets during the present campaign, with the overwhelming majority of those coming away from home.

“We can not be in a situation where we are needing to score three (goals) every week to win a game,” Jokanovic said. “Because that makes it very difficult to achieve our target.”

Sheffield United manager Slavisa Jokanovic: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Lys Mousset of Sheffield Utd netted twice against Barnsley: Simon Bellis / Sportimage