Sheffield United have made arguably their biggest signing of the summer ahead of life back in the Championship, with Slavisa Jokanovic penning a three-year deal to become the club’s new manager.
The Blades are preparing for life back in the second tier of English football, following their relegation from the Premier League this season.
Paul Heckingbottom was placed in interim charge in March following Chris Wilder’s departure, but a permanent successor to the 53-year-old has now been found.
The club have announced that Jokanovic has put pen to paper on a three-year deal to become the Blades’ first foreign manager, as he prepares to take over ahead of the start of next season.
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Jokanovic has won promotion from this level twice before with Watford in 2014/15 and Fulham in 2017/18, and the Serbian will be looking to use his expertise to guide United to an immediate return to the Premier League next season.
Other than his experience of winning promotion, what else can we expect from the 52-year-old? Here, we take a look at three things…
Attacking brand of football
If there’s one thing you can say about Watford and Fulham’s success under Jokanovic, it’s how it stemmed from the manager’s attacking, free-flowing philosophy.
Fulham won promotion via the play-offs in 2017/18 after finishing third in the Championship, scoring 79 goals in 46 league outings. Only Wolves, who had the likes of Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota, scored more goals, netting 82 times.
It wasn’t just Aleksandar Mitrovic, the scorer of 12 goals in 20 games following his January arrival from Newcastle, who found the net, either.
Ryan Sessegnon scored 16 goals from a wide position, Stefan Johansen chipped in with 17 goal contributions from midfield, and Tom Cairney had a say in 11 goals, too.
Goals came from every area of the pitch, and the football Jokanovic’s side played was quite simply a joy to watch at times.
If he is to follow on from Wilder and stick with the 3-5-2 formation, then United could be an expansive, enjoyable outfit to watch out for in 2021/22.
As alluded to just then, United have set up in a 3-5-2 system for three years now, pushing their wing-backs high and wide and getting their overlapping centre-backs involved in attacks.
But Jokanovic’s preferred system is a 4-3-3 – a formation he used at Watford and mainly at Fulham as the Cottagers won promotion to the top-flight.
Kevin McDonald did an excellent job at marshalling the midfield and sitting just in front of the back-four, which in turn gave Johansen and Cairney the license to go forward and cause the damage they so often inflicted on the opposition.
With Oliver Norwood more than capable of playing in that deep-lying role, as demonstrated under Jokanovic at Craven Cottage, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Serbian stick with what he knows best.
Perhaps the biggest problem he faces in that respect, though, is that United do not have too many out-and-out wingers at the club.
Instead, wing-backs George Baldock, Ben Osborn and Enda Stevens provide the width, and Jayden Bogle and Max Lowe were both brought in to fit that philosophy in the summer.
Confidence in making changes
When Fulham missed out on promotion via the play-offs in 2016/17, Jokanovic wasted no time in bolstering his squad, ready to go one further the following season.
12 summer signings were made the following summer, and those changes seemed to work, with Fulham going up and bouncing back from a frustrating end to 2016/17.
There were some players at the club who he managed to get the best out without having to bring others in, including Tim Ream who was a key player in defence.
But Jokanovic’s track record proves that if you give him the tools, he will deliver.
Of course, it is slightly different this time around, with United already having a talented squad on paper as they come down from the Premier League.
But the Serbian will undoubtedly want to mark his mark on his new squad, and a manager of his calibre needs backing from above to be a success.