Talking Tactics | Sheffield United v Swansea City
Swansea travel to Sheffield United this weekend looking for a result on their travels. Ahead of the encounter in Yorkshire, WhoScored.com preview the action, looking at what to expect from the Blades, the key battle and a key stat.
What to expect from Sheffield United
There were high hopes for Sheffield United back in the summer. Despite dropping into the Championship, fans were hopeful that the Blades would make an immediate return to England's top tier. Slavisa Jokanovic took over at Bramall Lane in May, yet in November, with the Blades sat 16th in the table, the Serb was relieved of his duties.
On the back of his departure, Paul Heckingbottom was named his replacement and - while Jovanovic was unable to settle on a set system - Heckingbottom has favoured a three-man backline and employed it to great effect.
Indeed, since Heckingbottom took over the Sheffield United reins, only Middlesbrough (26) have claimed more points than the Blades (24). Over the same period, only Blackburn (6) have conceded fewer goals than Sheffield United (7).
A defensive trio of Chris Basham, Jon Egan and Jack Robinson has been the Blades' go to, with Ben Davies enduring a spell on the sidelines due to injury, and the good form and solid defensive resolve has helped move Sheffield United to within two points of the play-offs.
In the final third, 39 goals scored may not be the best return in the division, but the Blades certainly have a knack of prying apart defences when needed. Only Fulham (26) have made more accurate through balls than Sheffield United (23) in the Championship this season, and it means they have developed a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'creating chances using through balls'.
Nine of those, more than any other player, have been by an attacker Swansea will be familiar with. Morgan Gibbs-White only made five league outings for the Swans last season before returning to Wolves due to injury, but has been a key man for Sheffield United.
A WhoScored.com rating of 7.09 is better than any other Sheffield United player and keeping the 22-year-old in check is of the utmost importance.
Sheffield United may not have been the most prolific side in the division this season, yet the experienced Billy Sharp has still scored 11 of their 39 league goals this term.
Having netted at least six times more than any other Blades player, Sharp has rightly developed a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'finishing'.
In addition, Sharp has six assists to his name, so there is more to the 36-year-old's game than just hitting the back of the net.
However, Sharp failed to score in the reverse fixture as Swansea and the Blades played out a 0-0 draw at the Swansea.com Stadium. Ben Cabango played the full 90 minutes in that stalemate and has been a solid performer for the Swans in 2021-22.
Given the absence of Kyle Naughton, Cabango is expected to start in defence once again for the Swans this weekend and, another solid display as fans bore witness to back in August, will be key if Russell Martin's side are to pick up a positive results.
Paul Heckingbottom has worked wonders for Sheffield United following his permanent appointment in November. Of the 11 games he has overseen, the Blades have won seven and a win percentage of 63.6% is better than any other Sheffield United manager in the club's history.
Back-to-back draws with Huddersfield and Hull has certainly tempered expectations in Yorkshire, yet Heckingbottom is performing above and beyond to try and help the Blades get back to the Premier League.