Heckingbottom ponders tactical switch with relegation looming

TEAMtalk staff

Interim boss Paul Heckingbottom thinks it would be “foolish” of him not to consider a change of formation for Sheffield United’s game at Wolves as injuries begin to bite at Bramall Lane.

The Blades were dealt a double injury blow this week with the news that Oli McBurnie and Billy Sharp will miss the rest of the season.

McBurnie fractured a bone in his foot during the defeat to Arsenal while fellow striker and club captain Sharp has undergone surgery on a thigh problem sustained in training.

John Fleck is a doubt ahead of the trip to Molineux, where the Blades’ inevitable relegation could be confirmed on Saturday night. The midfielder has not been able to train this week because of a stiff groin.

Meanwhile, Heckingbottom remains without Sander Berge, Chris Basham, Jack Robinson and Jack Rodwell.

Heckingbottom switched the midfield to a diamond shape for the second half of last weekend’s 3-0 defeat to Arsenal but it saw the Blades improve, and the 43-year-old may employ the same tactic against Wolves.


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“If you can’t change the personnel, the system you can change, and we’d be foolish not to look at it,” said Heckingbottom.

“In terms of debriefing the games, I think we’ve had a bit of everything. We had chances in the Chelsea game, we certainly had the physical output in the Leeds game but we were open in certain ways.

“Against Arsenal we didn’t create enough, I thought, even though we had more of the ball in the second half. We’re always looking to improve and being able to change the shape is something we could possibly do.

“We seem to get one back and lose two at the minute, that’s just the way it is and tends to be when things don’t go your way.

Results-injuries cycle

“We’ve had many discussions about what comes first, is it poor results lead to injuries or injuries lead to poor results?”

The Blades head into the weekend’s round of fixtures bottom of the table and 18 points adrift of safety with seven matches remaining. They could be even further detached by the time they kick-off at Molineux on Saturday night.

Heckingbottom knows getting the result they may need in order to prolong their Premier league survival will not be easy.

“They’ve got the threats with the pace of someone like (Adama) Traore and they have a different dimension to them compared to last season,” said Heckingbottom.

“We know they can be really creative but also really frugal in giving nothing away. They’ve changed shape in a couple of games so we have to be prepared for everything they throw at us. They pose threats all over the pitch.”