Good teams mostly beat poor ones, so why can't Sheffield Wednesday? SIX talking points from Owls 2 Hull City 2
Last week we were bored by the match, this week we've become bored by the sheer number of draws.
As Sheffield Wednesday notched up yet another one-point 'haul' against the now managerless Hull City, here are six talking points from the game
THE DRAWS HAVE TO STOP
No other team has drawn more games than Wednesday have this season, with only Brentford matching their nine so far. You can dress it up all you like by saying they are unbeaten in seven games but only two of those have reaped all three points and that's not promotion-chasing form. A team like Brentford are, arguably, reasonably happy to be hovering around mid-table given their resources, but for Wednesday and the squad they have assembled it's simply not good enough. To give you an idea how ludicrous it is the amount of times Wednesday have picked up a draw, Nottingham Forest have lost ELEVEN games - the second worst in the Championship - and have the same number of points as Carlos Carvalhal's side.
YOU CAN'T KEEP SOLELY BLAMING REFEREES
Admittedly I thought Wednesday should have had a penalty and I added it to the tally of decisions that had gone against them, as Michael Dawson at first look appeared to block an Adam Reach shot with his outstretched arm. Albeit studiously examined video replays suggest that it may have struck Dawson's ribs meaning that Carvalhal's angry rant afterwards made him look a little embarrassing and, probably for the first time, offered a contrast to his normally calm demeanour, to suggest this is a manager under severe pressure. It's often said that you should look for the reaction from the players closest when judging decisions and Reach didn't appeal. In fairness to the head coach this perceived injustice has been a feature of the season, but so too have below-par performances and he is yet to point the finger at his team's ineptitude. When these decisions go against you when facing a good team, like when Steven Fletcher was denied a penalty against Derby after Glenn Loovens had been sent off for a similar incident, then you can garner sympathy. When it becomes the focal point of your ire having failed to see off poor sides, like on Saturday, or in the defeat to Bolton earlier in the season, then that sympathy becomes diluted. The fact is, Wednesday should be easily beating a team as poor and as confidence-sapped as Hull, without relying on seemingly poor refereeing.
TACTICAL MASTERCLASS OR DESPERATION?
In trying to counter the argument that he is too defensive (without anyone in the press conference actually saying he was), Carvalhal suggested that you'd rarely see a team in the Championship with so many attacking players as he put out in the second half. While he may see this as an astute tactical switch, for many - including myself - it looked more like a coach throwing on as many forwards as he can and hoping for the best. In the first half the team was set up to attack from the flanks (more on that later) but that tactic was given little opportunity to work and again the midfield became narrow, congested and Hull simply sat back and allowed Wednesday to pass between themselves without really going anywhere. After the break, Jordan Rhodes came on along with Kieran Lee and Atdhe Nuhiu followed 10 minutes later. By that point they just went direct, which goes against 'the philosophy' but the result, in scoring twice to turnaround the deficit, also suggests that it can work better than knocking it around and hoping you might bore a defence to death. Nuhiu's arrival changed the game, they got the ball forward much quicker and did it from different areas of the pitch. The crowd was also lifted, suggesting that they too wouldn't really be dead against this approach if it meant far more attacking play and excitement. Maybe the philosophy has to change. Nuhiu doesn't necessarily have to start, but perhaps the more direct approach should.
Seeing Marco Matias' name on the teamsheet came as something of a shock. My first thought was that this was a bizarre decision, given that he'd rarely been given a place on the bench let alone being plunged into the starting line-up. I was, however, willing to give Carvalhal the benefit of the doubt in the hope that he had seen that the team was begging for more width and Matias' addition would mean they would use both flanks more readily than they had been. He was also trying something different in an attempt to shake off the monotony of the past few weeks and that was hugely commendable. However, Carvalhal seemingly gave that tactic all of about 10 minutes before reverting to type and Matias, in being forced inside on, you would guess, instruction from the coach, completely disappeared from the game. By half time, he was hooked and it was unfair on a player who looked like he was asked to do a job only to be told to do something outside of his strengths soon after. Carvalhal said Hull were spoiling 'the dynamic' but it appeared as though he didn't really give his players the opportunity to find a way of breaking them.
SHOCKING RETURN AGAINST STRUGGLERS
Wednesday have played all of the Championship's bottom eight teams this season and they have beaten just one of them - Millwall. That is simply dreadful. Carvalhal can talk about 'difficult places to go' and that 'the league is very balanced' but the simple fact is, those teams are down there for a reason and that's because they aren't very good. So either the head coach has such delusions of grandeur that he feels those sides only raise their game when they come up against Wednesday, or the majority of the other teams higher up simply find a way of beating them. Wednesday don't appear to be able to. One win, five draws and two defeats against the eight worst sides in the league is an abysmal record for a team with the Owls' ambitions. Norwich City, ninth from bottom, are next up - we can only hope they don't join the list of teams below Wednesday to take a point or three.
THE TEAM CALLS THE TUNE, NOT THE FANS
Hillsborough was deathly quiet in the first half because those in it had been given little to shout about. Show a bit more attacking intent and lo and behold the place erupts with vociferous backing. Carvalhal, again, in the build-up to this game called on the fans to get behind the players, but it doesn't work like that. Supporters respond to what they see and if they watch a team lacking a spark, then those in the stands can't carry the can for a lack in atmosphere. What we saw on Saturday was a fanbase, like every other, who will shout and cheer when their team gives them a reason to. Carvalhal's supposed pre-match rallying cries in the press shouldn't be focused on the ones that pay in, but the ones that are paid to entertain.