The 2019/20 Premier League season begins on Friday, when European champions Liverpool host Norwich at Anfield. If Liverpool are widely expected to again be Manchester City’s closest challengers, few have given Norwich much chance of survival after their promotion from the Championship. Experts from The Coaches’ Voice assess who can expect to finish where and reflect on the key tactical questions surrounding each team as the season begins – starting with those that might find themselves in the most danger.
20th: Sheffield United
Following two promotions in three years, Chris Wilder and Sheffield United are in the Premier League, where their future is likely to be determined by the success of the manager’s bold, expressive 3-5-2, unusually built on marauding central defenders.
In possession, Wilder’s team often resembles a 3-4-1-2 in which both wing-backs provide the first layer of attacking width. The three-strong defence becomes wider, while one of the double pivots drops from midfield to provide cover, encouraging one of the two wide defenders to advance. The wing-backs then move inside, dragging the defending full-back and creating space for either the overlapping central defender or attacking midfielder to exploit.
In the Premier League, it is more likely that the attacking central defender, in many cases Chris Basham, will be marked or pressed by a defending central midfielder. Even if the central defender’s overlap is often extremely delayed, Wilder can be expected to be more cautious with this tactic, in the knowledge any mistakes will get punished by the superior calibre of attacker his team will encounter at this higher level. Moving forward prematurely risks exposure during turnovers of possession, and for United’s movements to succeed they need to sufficiently dominate possession – which is also less likely in the Premier League.
The lifeline offered to Ravel Morrison also intrigues, and could lead to some match-winning moments. He offers deceptive dribbles from central areas, creativity and the ability to finish from range with both feet. Keep an eye, too, on new £20m striker Oli McBurnie, who has arrived from Swansea and will be expected to contribute goals as the Blades seek safety on their top-flight return.
Last season: 2nd, Championship