What Sheffield United really did during the international break
Slavisa Jokanovic has revealed that much of Sheffield United’s time during the international break focused on improving confidence and self-belief among existing members of their squad, despite signing three new players during the closing stages of the transfer window.
After appearing to confirm that a deal for Barcelona winger Alex Collado collapsed on deadline day - “I wanted to bring in people with Champions League experience but it was not possible” - Jokanovic could award debuts to loanees Morgan Gibbs-White, Conor Hourihane and Robin Olsen when Peterborough visit Bramall Lane this weekend.
With Hourihane and Olsen, whose involvement could be scuppered by Covid-19 restrictions, both away on duty with their respective countries, Jokanovic used the gap in the domestic fixture schedule to try and remove some of the psychological baggage he believes United are carrying after being relegated from the Premier League last season rather than undertake complex tactical work.
“Our focus during the break was to try and make the right decisions and to play with more confidence, to play what you see,” the Serb said, citing mental fragility as a factor behind United’s poor start to the season. “Things like, if the opposition score first and early, not rushing around and trying to score immediately ourselves because that is not football.
“My team is fighting well, we show a lot of desire,” Jokanovic added. “But we are not creating enough. We have 16 shots in some games, okay. But they needed to be from better situations.
“I have to accept that at the beginning of the season we were not at our best levels. But I am sure we will see the benefits.”
United have prepared for their meeting with Darren Ferguson’s side in 23rd position, after taking only two points from their first five Championship outings under Jokanovic’s tutelage. The former Yugoslavia and Chelsea midfielder, who has previously steered Watford and Fulham to promotion from the second tier, was forced to start the campaign without any “fresh faces” when United failed to progress their recruitment plans. However, after previously expressing his frustration with the situation, Jokanovic has been encouraged by their recent work.
“I considered everything,” he said. “Some (of the signings) are experienced. Some of them are young with energy and a desire.”