The tactical changes Sheffield United are planning ahead of their clash with Leeds
Paul Heckingbottom, Sheffield United’s caretaker manager, has explained why he will resist the temptation to make sweeping tactical changes during his time at the helm, but has suggested a number of subtle adjustments are being considered ahead of Saturday’s visit to Leeds.
Scheduled to remain in caretaker charge until the end of the season, Heckingbottom will oversee his third match at the helm when United meet his former club next weekend.
Having also enjoyed spells overseeing Barnsley and Hibernian before being named as Bramall Lane’s under-23 coach last year, Heckingbottom frequently employed a 4-2-3-1 formation during his spells at Easter Road and in West Yorkshire.
However, after inheriting a squad constructed to fit Chris Wilder’s 3-5-2 formation, the 43-year-old said: “The way this club has played over the years, and the way that’s brought so much success in the main, is reflected by the players within the squad. Of course it is, because everyone has a way of playing and you bring in people to suit that.
“These are observations, not criticisms. Far from it, because of the reason I’ve just mentioned.
“There’s no what you’d call natural, traditional wingers here though. So that means you aren’t going to look at doing certain (formations), and are going to focus on others.
“Plus, on top of that, the players here have been working on this way and they know what they know their roles within it. So it makes sense to carry on with that basically, but everyone likes to put their mark on things so there’s room within that to approach things in a slightly different way if we feel that’s necessary, whilst keeping the same base.”
Having outlined his desire to hand opportunities to some of the youngsters he has worked with at the Steelphalt Academy, Heckingbottom also suspects that adhering to the basic tenets of his predecessors’ footballing philosophy will simplify their transition to the senior game.
Although United make the journey to West Yorkshire at the bottom of the table and almost certain to be relegated, Heckingbottom said: “There’s still plenty to play for, so when these players come through it’s because they are good players.
“In the under-23’s, we took a conscious decision to mirror what the first team were doing, in terms of how we played and set-up. That made perfect sense because we want to bring players through and then they know what they are stepping into when they do.
“They are familiar with this. They know how it works, because they’ve been playing the same way.”
One of the most obvious changes Heckingbottom and his assistant Jason Tindall have looked to effect since stepping into the breach concerns United’s press. It was noticeable, during the second-half of United’s FA Cup quarter-final at Chelsea, that United were being encouraged to engage with the opposition much higher up the pitch than usual.
“That was an example of how you can work things, make changes, within the same overall framework,” Heckingbottom said. “That was something we wanted to see, and we think it made a difference.”