Sheffield United goalkeeper Wes Foderingham believes his side are more comfortable operating in a back three system after seeing Slavisa Jokanovic make the switch ahead of their tie with Coventry City, speaking to The Star after the match.
Mainly operating with a 4-2-3-1 formation this term under manager Jokanovic, moving away from the 3-5-2 system his predecessor Chris Wilder employed for several years, the Blades have encountered teething problems in their adaptation having been so accustomed to Wilder’s methods at Bramall Lane.
It seemed as though the Serbian would stick with his preferred formation judging by his comments about potentially switching prior to their game against Blackburn Rovers before the international break. He did opt to mix things up ahead of yesterday’s game, despite many of his key first-teamers including John Egan and Enda Stevens being away on duty with their national teams in the week before this game.
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With this, centre-back Ben Davies replaced winger Ben Osborn to join Egan and veteran Chris Basham at the heart of defence, with Stevens and Jayden Bogle given the license to get forward as wing-backs again after previously being played in this role under Wilder.
Although the Blades looked devoid of energy and ideas in attack until the latter stages of the game against the Sky Blues, they were able to keep a clean sheet having gone without one in their eight games prior to this weekend’s clash.
Whether this achievement persuades Jokanovic to stick with three centre-backs remains to be seen, but it has been fully endorsed by shot-stopper Foderingham who started in the absence of Robin Olsen.
Speaking to the Sheffield Star, he said: “I still think we adopted the (back) four quite well and just didn’t quite get to grips with it quickly enough. But we’re a bit more comfortable with the three, the manager took the decision to change and I thought we did well today.
“We kept the ball well, but when we got into key areas I think we were a little bit slow and you could hear the frustration from the crowd, which was understandable.
“You can see in recent weeks we’re a little bit low on confidence and I felt today we were just finding our feet early on, as the game went on we built well into the shape and got the ball forward quicker and looked a threat in the second half.”
This system change has both a positive and a negative.
Starting with the negative, it’s clear the South Yorkshire side’s manager still doesn’t know his best starting lineup or system despite being 18 league games into the season, which is quite concerning for a side hoping to get back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
However, it also shows he’s willing to adapt and change things which is a promising sign, with the Blades looking reasonably solid in the three. That should persuade him to stick with the same system in a quest to stay with a settled team.
This consistency will only help consistency on the pitch, something the Blades have been lacking with their underwhelming results this term, both at Bramall Lane and away from home.
Personnel is also a key issue for Jokanovic to contend with considering the depth he has got in a number of positions. The wing-back and striking departments are particularly competitive, but there can’t be too much rotation if they want to pick up points.
Foderingham is one man who should remain in goal after putting in a solid performance against Mark Robins’ men, making awkward saves look easy and looking like a good alternative to Swedish international Olsen at this stage.