Sheffield United have been linked with a summer transfer move for Aston Villa midfielder Conor Hourihane, per The Athletic.
The Blades could battle with fellow Championship side West Bromwich Albion for the 30-year-old, who has entered the final 12 months of his contract at Villa Park.
The Ireland international spent the second half of the 2020-21 season on loan at Swansea City but he looks set for a permanent exit this summer with his chances at Villa looking extremely limited.
With United being one of the teams eyeing up a deal for him, let’s look at how he could fit in to Slavisa Jokanovic’s team should they seal the deal for the 30-year-old.
Attacking midfield in a 4-2-3-1
Even though Jokanovic has already said he will be using a three centre-back system to start with, just like the Blades have played with for years and he’s already started experimenting in pre-season.
However when he was at Fulham the formation he used the most was a 4-2-3-1, and if the three centre-backs do not work then he could revert to that formation.
We can expect that one club will have bid enough for Sander Berge by the end of the transfer window, and in this particular system Hourihane could play as the most advanced midfield, with Oliver Norwood and John Fleck playing behind him.
He was the attacking midfielder for Swansea when Steve Cooper played the same formation and he will no doubt get a lot of goals in that role.
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Left-sided midfielder in a 3-5-2
In their pre-season victory against Europa Point of Gibraltar, United played more of a 3-4-3 than a 3-5-2 that Chris Wilder used to use, with David McGoldrick and Rhian Brewster supporting Lys Mousset.
With the amount of midfield talent the Blades have though it would seem silly not to utilise it, so a 3-5-2 in the Championship may work once again.
In that system, Hourihane as a natural left-footer you’d imagine would be on the left side of a three, with Norwood on the right and Fleck in the middle, but you also have to factor in Ben Osborn too, as well as youngsters like Regan Slater who will be looking to prove a point.
Left side of a diamond midfield
As mentioned there is so many midfielders at Bramall Lane that it’s hard to pick just two or three, especially if you add Hourihane into the mix, so why not go for a four-man diamond?
That particular formation brings width from the full-backs and United have plenty of those in Jayden Bogle, George Baldock, Rhys Norrington-Davies and Enda Stevens and it would mean a holding midfielder would sit in and stay back – probably Fleck.
Hourihane would provide a threat from that position with his long-range shooting and he would definitely be the main man to turn to when in need of a goal in whatever foursome that Jokanovic would choose in this formation.