Chris Wilder ponders alternative Sheffield United formations as he threatens to run out of centre-backs

All season long, Chris Wilder has been defending his 3-5-2 formation against those who have called for change, but at home to Liverpool on Sunday he might have no choice but to change it.

INJURIES: Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder

With Chris Basham, John Egan, Jack O'Connell, Jack Rodwell and Jack Robinson injured – not to mention Jayden Bogle and Sander Berge – the Blades are fast running out of central defenders.

Ethan Ampadu, Phil Jagielka and Kean Bryan were still standing at the last head-count and left wing-back Enda Stevens has filled in there, but scraping three central defenders together is becoming very challenging – never mind how that affects the positions in front.

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Manager Wilder will have to start at least thinking about formations starting with a four.

“You try and put round pegs in round holes and put people in a system they're familiar with,” he said. “We haven't got wingers.

“I have played with wingers before, I've played 4-2-3-1 at other clubs and 4-3-3, I've played every system.

“You bring players in to fit this system but you obviously don't expect the amount of injuries we have. We've got flexible players, versatile players top cover eventualities but to have the number of players we've had out and important players – we're not talking about young kids, our squad is there to play in the Premier League.

“If you look through it from a defensive point of view we've been massively hit (by injuries).”

Wilder has stubbornly refused to budge from the system which brought so much joy last season, flummoxing the rest of the top division with its overlapping centre-backs, midfield runners and overloads out wide. His only concession was to go to 3-4-1-2 against Championship side Bristol City in the FA Cup.

But he insists that does not mean he is unwilling to consider other approaches.

“We do that all the time,” he stressed. “We've looked at the system. If I felt it was the right thing for the football club to change the way we play – that we'd got the players to do it and it suited who we were playing and the division – I'm flexible.

“I've coached everything, every formation – a diamond, two midfield players, a 10 and two nines – if I felt that was the way to go about it, I would. I'm not a bury-my-head-in-the-sand manager who says this is me and I'm in charge, it's a dictatorship. We're open, we talk, we analyse, we look at what opponents have done to various teams, everything.

“There's a huge amount of analysis goes through us, from a statistical point of view, watching and thought process from an experienced staff. Everything is discussed and on the table.”

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