Sheffield United travel to Bournemouth this weekend looking to put a miserable night on Teesside to the back of their minds.
While it wasn’t the world’s worst performance from the Blades, there was something quite flat about the 90 minutes. Slavisa Jokanovic was left unimpressed by what he saw at times. A small step backwards he called it, and he’s right in that assessment.
And while it would be reactionary to make wholesale changes to the starting XI for the game at Bournemouth, there is an argument for one or two players to get their chance.
One such player is striker, Oli McBurnie. A frustrated figure last night, McBurnie didn’t get on, despite an impressive performance in the League Cup against Southampton just seven days ago.
There’s becoming a bit of a theme in some of the Sheffield United performances this season. It’s worth noting we have beaten three teams so far, all of whom will be around the bottom six.
The other worrying trend is our ability to seemingly be bullied by the opposition. It happened against Birmingham, West Brom, at times against Huddersfield, and again last night at Boro.
Per Whoscored, Boro won 23 aerial duels compared to United’s 15. Worryingly, Billy Sharp didn’t win a single one as Sol Bamba enjoyed a throwback performance for the ages.
Compare that to the week before against Southampton. That night, United won 20 aerial duels, and crucially, McBurnie had eight of them.
And while that is a statistic in isolation and only compared over two games, it’s a worthwhile metric when you loo0k at Championship football and the teams in there.
Chance for change
The trip to Bournemouth will be one of the toughest games of the season so far for Sheffield United. The Cherries could be top of the table if they beat Peterborough tonight.
And while they might not bring the same physical presence as a Neil Warnock led Middlesbrough side, surely this is a game for McBurnie to be given a go?
The big striker might have not scored the goals in red and white his big fee might command. Likewise, he has – at times – failed to fully grasp his chance.
Further, Billy Sharp’s form has also made him undroppable. But this Sheffield United squad has depth, and Jokanovic will do well to use it.
McBurnie is capable of playing up with Sharp, or on his own. But for his aerial presence in both boxes, what should be a desire to impress, and with a bit of confidence in the bag after his Southampton goal, the big striker should be the man to turn to this weekend.