Football Features

Jack Rodwell joins Sheffield United, where a job he once found “boring” has been redefined

By Oliver Young-Myles

Where will Jack Rodwell play at Sheffield Utd

Published: 18:43, 3 January 2020

Jack Rodwell has been thrown a Premier League lifeline by Chris Wilder after signing a short-term deal with Sheffield United.

The 28-year-old had been without a club since leaving Championship side Blackburn Rovers last summer and was unsuccessful in a trial period with AS Roma in November.

Rodwell had been training with Sheffield United recently and could even be in contention to make his debut for the club against non-league AFC Fylde at Brammall Lane in the FA Cup third-round on Sunday.

Good-to-know info on the Jack Rodwell to Sheffield United transfer story:

  • Jack Rodwell left Blackburn Rovers in the summer following spells with Sunderland, Manchester City and Everton. He won a Premier League title with City in 2014.
  • Rodwell was once considered one of England’s best up-and-coming talents and has been capped three times at senior level between 2011-13.
  • During his time in Everton’s academy, Rodwell was earmarked for a future role in central defence, earning comparisons with Rio Ferdinand for his style of play.
  • He would ultimately go on to spend much of his career in central midfield, describing the centre-back role as “boring” in 2014.
  • According to reports, Rodwell has been signed partly to provide cover for right-sided centre-back Chris Basham in Wilder’s 3-5-2 formation.
  • Currently 8th in the table, Sheffield United are 8/1* to finish in the top six this season – shorter odds than the likes of Everton (12/1).

*English Premier League Top 6 Finish odds from William Hill. 18+ only. For more information, go to be BeGambleAware.org

Speaking about Rodwell’s arrival on Friday, Wilder said:  “Hopefully we can kickstart his career. He’s certainly got the desire from a physical point of view. No issues from an attitude point of view.”

He added: “I’ve sat down with him for quite a long time and spoken about his career going forward, it aligns with the club’s goals.

“He plays a number of positions and hopefully we can get him going.”

Midfield ambitions

Shortly after signing for Sunderland from Manchester City in 2014, Rodwell set out his ambitions to replace Steven Gerrard in England’s central midfield after missing out on a place in Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad.

“I’m [at Sunderland} as a central midfielder,” he said.

“I haven’t played centre-back since I was 16 really. But you never know, maybe one day I might step back when I’ve got no legs.

“I’m wasted if I play there though. I think I’ve got more to offer than playing centre-back – it’s boring as well.”

Overlapping centre-backs

It is interesting, therefore, that there have been reports stating that Wilder sees Rodwell as competition for Chris Basham, who has started all 21 of Sheffield United’s league games in a central defensive role.

However, playing as a centre-back for Sheffield United is certainly different compared to other clubs given the unique instructions Wilder gives his players.

Chris Basham’s heat map this season

The term ‘overlapping centre-backs’ has rapidly become a buzz term when assessing Sheffield United over the past couple of seasons due to the regular forays forward made by their right and left-sided central defenders, Basham and Jack O’Connell.

As highlighted by Basham’s season heat-map above, Sheffield United’s wide centre-backs are predominantly expected to shuttle and down the flanks as well tuck inside into central midfield roles when the ball is on the opposite flank.

Perhaps that is why Wilder has found a place in his squad for Rodwell. Renowned for his athleticism, comfortable in possession and accustomed to playing in central midfield, he could prove an astute acquisition for the Blades.