We should start with a quick poll, ready? How many of you watched Sheffield United play more than once when they were in the Championship last season? Now, of those with their hands up how many watched them because they had heard the phrase ‘overlapping fullbacks’. I would wager that this would cover most of you. I watch a lot of football and even I only watched then play three times last season (yes, I keep a track of these things). Our watching habits from last season are more than likely reflected by those in the media and as such the promotion of Sheffield United to the Premier League, last season was met with the expectation that their coach Chris Wilder was a typical British coach and that Sheffield United were workmanlike and unimaginative. In fact, this could not be further from the truth. While it is true that Sheffield United play in a very specific style and that they tend not to deviate from that style there is nothing unimaginative about their game model.
Out of possession, I have yet to see another team look as impressive as this Sheffield United side. Earlier this season I watched them play at home to Liverpool and it took a goalkeeping error for the league leaders, and likely champions, to force a breakthrough. This time I watched them play away at the current champions Manchester City and the City coach Pep Guardiola was forced into a complete rethink at half time to find a way around the United defensive block. Even with this tactical change City still needed the inadvertent intervention of the referee to enable their build-up to the first goal of the match.
In this tactical analysis, we will examine the key tactical points in the match. We will initially examine the methods that Guardiola looked to use to control the match and the defensive system that the Spaniard was trying to break down. We will then look at the halftime change that City made in order to stress key areas of the United defensive block.
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