Marcelo Bielsa is a big fan of Chris Wilder – and the Championship table-toppers could replicate the Blades tactics with Ipswich Town’s Luke Woolfenden.
Chris Wilder’s patented ‘overlapping centre-backs’ are certainly unique. But it was only a matter of time before other managers and other clubs tried to take inspiration from Sheffield United’s inimitable approach.
Now, Paul Lambert is hardly the most revolutionary tactician in the game but there was a time, earlier in 2020, when a hitherto out-of-sorts Ipswich Town side scored a goal the Premier League high-flyers themselves would have been proud of.
Channelling his inner-Chris Basham, Tractor Boys defender Luke Woolfenden embraced his new attacking duties in style during a 4-1 thrashing of Accrington Stanley in January. Making a well timed run down the wing, this centre-half-turned-flying-full-back then produced an inch-perfect assist to cap off a flowing move befitting of Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United.
“We’re playing three at the back and that gives me a chance to get forward. I like to do that and I think that it has shown in recent games,” Woolfenden, who Lambert values at £10 million, told Ipswich’s official website.
And with TWTD reporting that Leeds United are interested in luring one of the Football League’s most exciting young defenders to Elland Road, could the £3 million-rated Woolfenden encourage Marcelo Bielsa to replicate an approach that left even one of the modern game’s most influential minds scratching his head?
“If I was in a bar having a coffee with friends, I would say Sheffield United’s head coach is someone with new ideas and I have seen very few people with these kinds of ideas,” Bielsa told The Mirror last year when asked to discuss Wilder’s overlapping centre-back system.
“Usually when you observe someone, you don’t observe things you see every day, you observe the new things.”
Even when deploying a four-man defence, Leeds are usually flexible enough to adapt mid-game to a wing-back system. Either way, a player with Woolfenden’s tactical and technical gifts is likely to be well received by Bielsa.