Newly relegated Sheffield United are goalless in their opening two league games back in the Championship, with Rhian Brewster’s strike in their League Cup first round 1-0 victory over Carlisle United the only time the net has bulged in the infancy of Slavisa Jokanovic’s reign.
The Blades produced an excellent defensive display against Swansea City last time out, limiting Russell Martin’s men to just 0.27 expected goals in their 0-0 stalemate at the Liberty Stadium.
With tougher tests on the horizon United cannot be relying on restricting the opposition so much, it is just not sustainable.
After a painfully frustrating 2020/21 campaign, the Blades will be desperate to give their fans something to shout about in the early exchanges of this season and they have to be more dynamic in attack if they are to achieve that.
Here, then, we take a look at three tactical tweaks Jokanovic could implement ahead of their trip to the Hawthorns…
It may have come as a surprise that Jokanovic has preferred both Billy Sharp, 35, and David McGoldrick, 33, to the Scotsman who clocked up 59 Premier League appearances in the last two seasons.
A youthful duo of Brewster alongside McBurnie could go further to exciting the Bramall Lane home crowd again.
The 25-year-old is a great physical presence and a real handful for any Championship backline, Sharp and McGoldrick’s movement and ball manipulation may be more intelligent but they do not possess the unpredictability of McBurnie.
He has scored 31 goals in 61 appearances at Championship, his introduction could completely alter the way the Blades play.
In the Blades’ remarkably successful 2018/19 and 2019/20 campaigns under Chris Wilder they religiously stuck to a 3-5-2 formation, so much of the personnel from those two seasons remain at the club and are well versed in adopting that system at Championship level.
George Baldock has been an excellent creative force at right wing back in the last few years, giving him that extra licence to get forward compared to in a back four, this could be another key cog in upping their chance creation.
With the choice of Ben Osborn or Rhys Norrington-Davies on the other side, Jokanovic would also have great tactical flexibility with Jack Robinson moving into the back three, perfectly capable of moving out to left back should the Serbian want to return to a back four mid game.
Linked to a change of formation again but in looking to get the best out of Oliver Norwood. The former Northern Ireland international is adept at dictating the ebb and flow of a game at Championship level, giving greater protection around him should allow the 30-year-old to get on the ball and could see the Blades gain more possession and greater penetration with his vision.
Luke Freeman and Ben Osborn would both be good additions to the side to slot in alongside Berge and Norwood, Osborn in particular with his relentless energy could be just the foil to allow Norwood to start to stamp his authority on the game.
West Bromwich Albion provide stiff opposition, and won the identical fixture last season in the league above. Maybe a bit of a throwback to former glory, but the current crop of players at Sheffield United are still suited to playing the 3-5-2 formation that has brought them such success in recent years.