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Talking Tactics

Fleck can bypass Soucek to continue Sheff Utd revival

12 Feb 2021
A graphic showing Sheffield United midfielder John Fleck

Adrian Clarke says midfielder is helping Blades get back to their best ahead of trip to West Ham

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points in Matchweek 24.

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Chris Wilder’s decision to reunite last season’s successful central midfield trio has coincided with Sheffield United's best spell of this season.

John Fleck, Oliver Norwood and John Lundstram have played in Sheff Utd's midfield for a six-match run that has featured three wins, as well as narrow defeats to Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.

These players who performed so well last term had been used together only once by Wilder in their previous 17 matches of 2020/21.

That one occasion was on the opening weekend.

Sheff Utd midfield comparison
2020/21 Starts Wins Points
Fleck/Norwood/Lundstram 7 3 9
Other midfield combinations 16 0 2

Fleck's performances have really stood out in recent weeks.

He was instrumental in helping to create the opening that led to Billy Sharp’s winning goal against West Bromwich Albion in Matchweek 22.

The Scot also supplied a superb cross for David McGoldrick to head home against Spurs, while his corner was converted by Kean Bryan in their 2-1 win at Manchester United.

Fleck's performance at Man Utd

The statistics show that Fleck is Sheff Utd's most creative player.

He finds plenty of space between the lines where he can deliver accurate passes.

Fleck is also terrific at set-pieces and makes more successful passes into the final third than any team-mate.

Fleck passing statistics
2020/21 Per 90 Sheff Utd rank
Succ. passes into final third 16.7 1st
Chances created 1.4 1st
Succ. passes in opp. half 24.4 3rd

Fleck’s duel with Tomas Soucek has the potential to be a match-defining one at London Stadium.

Wilder's 3-5-2 formation will sometimes leave Sheff Utd with a spare man in midfield against what will likely be a 4-2-3-1 West Ham United set-up.

Fleck and Lundstram cleverly rotate in their box-to-box roles, with one pushing forward while the other sits alongside Norwood.

If they are able to get the better of Soucek and his partner Declan Rice, Sheff Utd can earn another impressive away victory and give them more hope of a great escape.

Also in this series

Part 1: West Brom signings must shine to shock Man Utd
Part 2: Will a false nine help Guardiola overcome Mourinho?

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