Championship Gameweek 24: Lampard’s Young Derby To Thrive At Bramall Lane5 min read
Sheffield United welcome Derby County to South Yorkshire on Wednesday – here’s what we’re expecting for the Boxing Day clash.
United’s final third limitations
Given that Sheffield United have effectively never been outside the Championship’s top 10 over the last 18 months, it is easy to forget that they were only promoted to this level as recently as 2017.
Oliver Norwood dictates play superbly in central midfield next to John Fleck, who has made the step up from League One with consummate ease while the likes of Mark Duffy and David McGoldrick love to pick up pockets of space between the lines.
Players tend to wait for overlapping, supporting runs which enable them to combine neatly in tight areas; for those superbly co-ordinated patterns of play, Chris Wilder and Alan Knill deserve great credit.
While United are very good at sustaining pressure, however, they are not always as good at capitalizing on it.
What they do not yet possess is a forward with pace and either the power and trickery to change the direction of play, or the quality to produce a moment of individual magic.
In some ways, that is understandable, because the club have reportedly the 16th lowest budget and do not want to overspend.
Equally, it is understandable that fans are slightly frustrated with Prince Abdullah and Kevin McCabe for not backing Wilder more; spending that little bit more on one or two forwards would take that side up another level.
Derby’s star quality
By contrast, Derby County chairman Mel Morris has backed Frank Lampard to build an exciting squad packed with some of this country’s best young talent.
It already contained Tom Lawrence, who is something of a loose cannon; he has that capacity to run past two or three defenders and hit wonderfully accurate shots from distance.
Mason Mount, who joined on loan from Chelsea in the summer, loves to drive forward from midfield and shoot – he has had 31 attempts from outside the box, more than any midfielder in the Championship.
Jack Marriott, meanwhile, was the top goalscorer in League One last season with 27 goals for Peterborough.
Not only has the speedy Marriott shown his excellent finishing qualities, with seven goals in his last 12 games, he is also a terrier out of possession and will not stop pressurizing defences.
Harry Wilson inspired Hull’s run to survival in the last three months of the previous campaign and, since joining on loan from Liverpool, he has displayed a level of quality that would perk even Jurgen Klopp’s interest, with outstanding free-kicks against Stoke and Manchester United.
Of course, these bright prospects need to be cajoled by the experienced spine of Scott Carson, Richard Keogh, Tom Huddlestone and Craig Bryson; David Nugent is no doubt a positive influence in the dressing room, too, despite featuring less prominently this term, meaning Derby have the ideal blend of youth and experience.
Rams to make it count
Sheffield United are the more prominent side in most of their clashes but are not always able to take the initiative when they get into those dangerous areas.
Lampard’s side, by contrast, might not be on top for quite such long periods but, at the top end of the pitch, they possess the quality to make their pressure count.
Derby to win at