Paul Heckingbottom eyes formation switch at Sheffield United as injuries bite deep

Paul Heckingbottom says he would be “foolish” not to consider changing Sheffield United’s formation because his options for changing the make-up of the team are so thin.

Oli McBurnie is the latest striker to have his season ended prematurely, a stress fracture of the fifth metatarsal ruling him out the day after it was announced Billy Sharp’s campaign had been ended by a tendon operation.

Sander Berge has been in full training for the past three days but having not played since December, is not ready for tomorrow’s trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers. Chris Basham’s calf injury is taking longer than expected to heal and John Fleck’s “stiff groin” will be assessed, but the Blades hope he will be fit despite not having trained all week.

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Both sides were wedded to a back three last season but whereas Nuno Espirito Santo has changed at times in 2020-21, the Blades have not – at least not at the start of matches.

Paul Heckingbottom. Picture: Andrew Yates/Sportimage

Switching to a midfield diamond for the second half of Sunday’s defeat to Arsenal improved Sheffield United, and will be considered at Molineux.

“If you can’t change the personnel, the system you can change,” argued interim manager Paul Heckingbottom. “We’d be foolish not to look at it.

“We want to keep fighting to the death, until the very end.

“In terms of debriefing the games, I think we’ve had a bit of everything. We had chances in the Chelsea game, we certainly had the physical output in the Leeds game but we were open in certain ways. Against Arsenal we didn’t create enough, I thought, even though we had more of the ball in the second half. We’re always looking to improve and being able to change the shape is something we could possibly do.”

The mounting injuries are denting the morale of a club who could be relegated tomorrow.

“It’s a blow when you get a second diagnosis that it’s a tendon issue that’s going to require surgery rather than just rest and recuperation which we were hoping for,” said Heckingbottom of Sharp.

“Someone of Sharpy’s experience with his connection to the club, club captain, it’s a loss for lots of reasons but we can’t worry about that.

“We seem to get one back and lose two at the minute, that’s just the way it is and tends to be when things don’t go your way.

“We’ve had many discussions about what comes first, is it poor results lead to injuries or injuries lead to poor results?”

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