Highlights on Off The Ball

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Highlights on Off The Ball

Sheffield United's Irish contingent bodes well for Swiss clash

A couple of weeks ago, ex-Ireland full back Stephen Kelly did an excellent breakdown for us on wh...


Sheffield United's Irish contingent bodes well for Swiss clash

A couple of weeks ago, ex-Ireland full back Stephen Kelly did an excellent breakdown for us on why Sheffield United are a team to watch this season.

That was based on their bold tactical approach. But from an Irish perspective, they are one of the few Premier League teams who give Irish players significant game-time.

Callum Robinson, Enda Stevens, John Egan and David McGoldrick are Chris Wilder’s main Irish quartet.

The first three played a key role on Saturday as Sheffield United earned a 2-2 draw at Chelsea.

Significantly it was right before this week’s international break when Ireland host Switzerland.

So how did the Irish contingent fare at Stamford Bridge?

The Irish Connection

Starting with Robinson, he played on the right flank when Ireland laboured against Gibraltar.

On Saturday, he operated on the left of the front two.

His display was excellent. The former Preston forward regularly made runs down Chelsea’s right-wing channel, linking up with Stevens and the left-sided midfielder.

As for goal chances, he experienced contrasting fortunes either side of half-time.

Late in the first half, he should have done better with a diving header at close range. Instead, his connection sent the ball wide.

However, right after half-time, he showed he can finish.

United’s best moments came down the left and it was the Irish connection again.

Stevens was able to pick out Robinson who took up a good position in space in the box. He then showed good composure to strike home with his right foot.

Robinson would deliver again late on as Sheffield completed their comeback.

It was his in-swinging cross from the left flank that forced Kurt Zouma’s own goal.

Stevens shines

Stevens also shine as the left wing-back in the 3-5-2 Sheffield employed.

Aside from his assist for Robinson, he also provided over-lapping width, although Sheffield were caught narrow at times defensively, like for the first Chelsea goal.

It was also interesting to watch Sheffield United’s attacking approach off the back of Kelly’s analysis.

The Blades use over-lapping centre-backs, although that was used more sparingly at Stamford Bridge. There was one moment when left-sided centre-back Jack O’Connell almost set up Robinson after charging forward and whipping in a cross.

That also means Stevens needs to be able to find space inside to accommodate an over-lap. We didn't see too much of that on Saturday. But he did test Chelsea’s goalkeeper when he found himself central and fire a shot on 80 minutes.

Egan had an up-and-down afternoon against a dangerous Chelsea attack. His nominal role was anchor centre-back. He did get caught out with one high long ball over his shoulder to Tammy Abraham.

But the Blues didn't profit on that occasion. However, for the second Chelsea goal, O’Connell was culpable. With Egan about to make a clearing header, O’Connell inexplicably moved across to challenge for the same ball, sowing confusion.

But they were able to fight back gamely and earn a draw despite that 2-0 deficit.

An encouraging display for Sheffield United, especially where Ireland’s concerned.

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Chelsea Off The Ball Premier League Raf Diallo Sheffield United