Dom Howson’s Sheffield Wednesday column: Why Owls should make defensive change

Joost van Aken
Joost van Aken
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Youth and experience.

Wednesday have a mix of both at centre-back.

Barry Bannan makes a point to Jordan Rhodes and Glenn Loovens

Barry Bannan makes a point to Jordan Rhodes and Glenn Loovens

Joost van Aken and Frederico Venancio are the young pretenders. The foreign pair are Championship rookies and have six starts in this country between them (All of which van Aken has contributed).

Tom Lees and Glenn Loovens, meanwhile, are reliable, tried and trusted performers at this level.

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With Loovens expected to be available for selection after the international break, Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal will soon be spoilt for choice at the back. It is not a bad position to be in and I’m sure many managers in the second-tier would love to have Carvalhal’s options.

Loovens’ imminent return increases competition for places and gives Carvalhal a major defensive poser.

It is highly unlikely Carvalhal will leave out Lees, who has established himself as a mainstay of the side in recent years. After an inconsistent start to the season, he looks to be getting back to his commanding best.

Carvalhal has made it pretty clear Venancio has been brought in as cover and is fourth in the pecking order, meaning van Aken is competing with Loovens for one spot.

So far I like what I have seen of van Aken. The 23-year-old is a tenacious, imposing figure who is accomplished on the ball and someone with enormous potential.

Alongside Lees, he was excellent at Cardiff City and played an integral part in marking the dangerous Kenneth Zohore out of the contest. Van Aken is physically strong and his positional sense will get better with age.

“I think he has settled in very quickly because it is not easy, especially at his age and coming from a different country and different style of football,” said Lees. “I think he has done well to adapt the way that he has.”

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But it has not been a faultless start to life in England for van Aken. The Dutchman is still a little rough around the edges and has, on occasions, shown his naivety and inexperience. He was part of backline who were run ragged in the Steel City derby last month.

Has van Aken done enough to retain his place? It would be harsh to drop him and could potentially damage his confidence.

On the other hand, Loovens is the club captain. He leads by example on and off the pitch.

When Loovens is feeling 100 per cent physically, it is very rare he has an off day. He consistently puts in solid performances and has formed a strong partnership with Lees. Loovens and Lees have a good understanding and should, rightly, take a lot of the plaudits for the number of clean sheets Wednesday have chalked up over the last three years or so.

Shut-outs have been harder to come by for the Owls this season, which is why I would be tempted to turn back to Loovens. Experience can count for a lot when a team is under pressure to string a number of positive results together.

Van Aken’s time will come, but Loovens is a safe pair of hands.

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