Preston North End manager Alex Neil has praised the “unique” tactic used by Sheffield United.
The Blades beat Preston 1-0 at Deepdale at the weekend to move back into second in the Championship table.
Leeds United were defeated by the same scoreline at Birmingham City, allowing Chris Wilder’s side to above them by one point.
David McGoldrick scored the only goal of the game in the first half, but it is in defence that Neil thinks Wilder’s style shines.
“Sheffield United have played a certain style since Chris has been there,” the Lilywhites boss told the Lancashire Evening Post.
“It is different to anyone else in our division and in all four leagues I would think. That is why they’ve had such a good season.
“What makes them unique is that their centre-backs go and overlap. Very few centre-backs are comfortable doing that but they have got Martin Cranie, Jack O’Connell, Chris Basham and Enda Stevens who can do that job.”
The unique tactic
It is no secret that Wilder deploys an unusual 3-4-1-2 system that allows the flanking centre-backs to go forward. In fact, they are often the furthest player up the pitch when the Blades are attacking .
The real skill is that Wilder has managed to implement it without losing any defensive solidity. United have now kept nine clean sheets in their last 10 league matches, winning eight.
The other problem for opponents is, while they are aware of it, how do they stop it? When a player is so far away from their expected position, it can be difficult to know how to adjust and to decide who’s role it is to close them down.
On occasions this season it has been Basham, or Cranie, or O’Connell getting to the byline to play a cross for a goal. Wilder has, as Neil says, created a truly unique tactic.