Opinion: Sheffield United’s new signing might just be the best player in the Championship | OneFootball

Opinion: Sheffield United’s new signing might just be the best player in the Championship

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Football League World

Chris Wilder may be gone, but his replacement Paul Heckingbottom has retained the 3-at-the-back system with overlapping centre backs which was synonymous with the Blades’ Championship and Premier League success.

Since Wilder joined the club in 2016, and even now after his departure, Sheffield United’s defensive recruitment has had to be specialised for this reason.

No longer is it sufficient to get a big man in at the back to bark out commands, hoof the ball away and be solid. Positional awareness, passing range, pace and the technical quality to help out with the attack are all required alongside solidity without the ball.

Anel Ahmedhodzic might be the best example of those qualities which Sheffield United have ever witnessed.

The 23-year-old joined up with The Blades this summer from Malmö after a six-month stint on loan at relegated Ligue 1 outfit Bordeaux. The Bosnian international therefore boasts significant European experience as a two-time Allsvenskan champion,  and has also played 5 games in the Champions League.

What is less known, however, is that Ahmedhodzic also boasts experience of the English game despite being only 23.

The defender spent 3 years in the youth academy at Nottingham Forest, turning out only once for a 6-minute cameo as a substitute against Newcastle United in 2016, but racked up plenty of playing time in the under-18s side.

As recently as last year, Ahmedhodzic himself had admitted that discussions were taking place with top-tier European clubs such as Napoli and Atalanta, but what is strange is that his stock has only risen over the past twelve months prior to this move to the Championship.

The Bosnian missed only one game out of 16 for Bordeaux in six months at the club, playing 90 minutes in the rest, and looked composed on the left-side of a back three in spite of his team’s struggles.

That experience in a 3 centre-back system has clearly carried over, although interestingly at Sheffield United Ahmedhodzic finds himself on the right rather than the left.

This ability to play off both sides is just one of many pieces of evidence for Ahmedhodzic’s versatility and quality.

What really stands out, however, are his contributions going forward.

Already, the centre-back has put up a goal and an assist in a single game against Sunderland to go along with his defensive masterclass which gave him Man of the Match versus Millwall.

The Sunderland assist was a classic Wilder-ball style overlapping run to the right side of the box, pulling back for a tap-in for fellow defender Max Lowe, which again earned him Man of the Match honours.

It’s early days yet, but from both a physical and technical perspective Anel Ahmedhodzic appears to be one of the best players in the division.

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