Former Sheffield United captain Chris Morgan believes the tendency for home teams to go all out and attack is the real reason for the Blades’ poor defensive form at Bramall Lane this season, speaking on the club’s YouTube channel after their 2-2 draw against Preston North End in midweek.
A 95th-minute equaliser from Emil Riis prevented the South Yorkshire side from grabbing consecutive Championship wins after a slow start to the 2021/22 season – but exposed their frailties at the back as their goals against tally went up to 11 on Tuesday night in just seven games.
They have failed to keep a single league clean sheet at Bramall Lane so far this season, losing 1-0 against Peterborough United in their opening fixture before conceding two against Huddersfield Town, Peterborough United and Preston North End in their following games in South Yorkshire.
24 questions about some of Sheffield United’s best ever strikers – Can you get 100% correct?
After conceding 27 goals in 19 Premier League home games last term as they finished at the foot of the top-tier table, their defensive record there has been even worse this season against Championship opponents.
For players of the experience and top-flight pedigree of Chris Basham, John Egan and Jack Robinson, with Liverpool loanee Ben Davies also expected to impress this term, this will be disappointing but another centre-half in Chris Morgan, who captained the Blades to the Premier League in 2006, offered an insight into why they have conceded so many goals at Bramall Lane.
“That’s one thing – particularly the lads like Jack Robinson and John Egan – as centre-backs, you’ll be thinking I want to keep clean sheets at home as well”, Morgan said after the Preston North End clash.
“And I know teams are a bit more open and they do go for it at home. And that’s maybe why they have conceded a bit at Bramall Lane.
“They played to the crowd – they’re up, they’re at it – but there’s also got to be a control.
“Teams that get promoted from this league keep clean sheets both at home and away. That’s four goals (conceded) now conceded in two games.
“It’s something they’ll be looking at, definitely.”
They may have needed time to adapt to a new league, but their defence just hasn’t been good enough with the quality they have in defence. Someone of John Egan’s calibre should be stepping up alongside the likes of Jack Robinson and Chris Basham to ensure goals like Riis’ don’t happen in the future.
Preston’s first goal may have come from an individual error from Robin Olsen, but the second one was totally avoidable as a collective and they will be kicking themselves that they weren’t able to scramble it clear at such a crucial time.
Whether this result has stifled their momentum after their 6-2 hammering of Peterborough United remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: they will need to tighten up at the back if they want to climb up the table and claim a place in the top six.
The Blades were many peoples’ favourite for the Championship title at the start of the campaign with the existing quality in their ranks and a promotion-winning manager in Slavisa Jokanovic at the helm.
But their defence is not good enough for a Barnsley-esque rise up the second-tier table at this moment in time, so that needs to be Jokanovic’s top priority on the training ground and Morgan is right to point out that they need to do better in that aspect.