Sheffield United Show Steel But Lack of Sting in Leeds Loss Is Cause for Concern

Last season, Sheffield United managed to balance out their lack of goals with a structure that was foreign to the Premier League.

An inventive brand of football that proved both tough to predict and even harder to adjust to, they almost coasted their way through the best part of the campaign as if they were seasoned top-flight professionals.

Quite exemplary work from Chris Wilder's men, and they rightfully received the plaudits their performances warranted.

Even their frightening lack of goals was brushed under the carpet in favour of heralding their resolute defending, but after three matches this season, they appear to have come unstuck.

Against Leeds, they were without two of their first choice central defenders, with John Egan suspended and Jack O'Connell now expected to miss most of the season. Ethan Ampadu came in and put in a solid shift, with Jack Robinson somewhat less assured.

There would be excuses to make in that sense if they were less organised at the back, but they were still mostly untroubled despite Leeds seeing the majority of the ball. Limited to efforts from distance, Wilder will not have been too disheartened by his side's defending.

They just can't score.

Fielding Oliver Burke and David McGoldrick up front, they essentially play without strikers. Burke would drift into wide areas and make interesting scything runs from those positions, while McGoldrick would come short to collect possession, even moving wide himself to flood the flanks.

John Lundstram would make the darting runs into the box to provide the goal threat, but he is no centre forward. The best chance of the match - that wasn't converted - fell to Lundstram, but while Illan Meslier was magnificent, it's a chance he should have converted.

When your top scorer from last season only hit six goals in all competitions, the area of concern would appear fairly clear. Yet while there is a need to bring in better quality up front, alterations in midfield are almost more urgent.

Ben Osborn has struggled to adapt to life in the Premier League since making the move from Nottingham Forest, and in the advanced midfield role alongside Lundstram, they offer little in an attacking sense. The Blades have too many players of the same ilk, none of whom are adequate goal threats.

Both Enda Stevens and George Baldock are versatile wing-backs, but their crosses into the box are met by a combination of midfielders without any mobility or flair. McGoldrick has aerial presence, as do the centre backs, but their midfield is akin to Burnley's only with the addition of wing-backs.

None of those midfield five, barring perhaps Baldock, are going to make the incisive runs through opposition lines that free up space for teammates, and even if they do, there is nobody you'd gladly rely on to tuck away a chance.

They'll get goals across the pitch like they did last season, but they need a bit of guile and pace in that central area. That's what is lacking. Oli McBurnie came on and they looked a better threat, but that's only because he drove with the ball through the thirds with any meaningful pace.

Three games, no points, no goals. Wilder needs to change his shape to solve this issue, or at least shuffle the personnel around to maximise their efficiency when in possession.

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Source : 90min