The tactical tweak that sparked Sheffield United's mini-resurgence during the last international break
The difference in Sheffield United before and after the previous international break was stark, with the Blades going from a side who had picked up two points from five games to one looking much more like the side everyone expected they would be under manager Slavisa Jokanović.
There can surely be little doubt that some additions helped, when they finally arrived just before the transfer deadline. Morgan Gibbs-White has been a revelation, Robin Olsen solid rather than spectacular and Conor Hourihane has rarely been seen, but has undoubtedly strengthened United’s midfield options.
But a change in approach has also been key. Before the break, United were dominating possession but doing little with it. During the two-week hiatus, they worked on making it count. In their first game back, they hammered Peterborough United 6-2 and scored 11 goals in three games.
That progress has been stunted a little by back-to-back defeats away at Middlesbrough and Bournemouth, leaving Jokanović’s men 14th in the Championship as they went into the latest break.
But their performance at Bournemouth, now the league leaders and the only side in the competition yet to taste defeat, suggested that things are at least moving in the right direction.
“We were having 70 per cent of possession [earlier in the season] but not creating much, so that was something we worked on,” revealed winger Ben Osborn.
“And we've got benefit from it. The gaffer is big on playing forward. I hear it from the sidelines when I'm on the left... “Forward, forward.”
“If you beat the press especially, go forward. I think we can still get a bit better at that, get a bit more confident and finish with more crosses and shots. If we can do that, I think we'll see the benefits.”
United return to action a week on Saturday, when they face Stoke City at Bramall Lane before welcoming Millwall to South Yorkshire the following Tuesday.
And boss Jokanović has urged his side to channel the frustration of poor refereeing decisions at Bournemouth in a positive manner for the rest of the season, as they look to make up the growing gap between them and the automatic promotion places.