How Sheffield Wednesday can get their season back on track
So much for a flying start to the season.
Wednesday have collected a meagre one point from their opening three Championship fixtures.
The defence is leaking goals, injuries are piling up and the pressure is mounting on manager Jos Luhukay.
These are worrying times.
The Star’s Dom Howson examines what needs to happen for the Owls to get back on track.
The senior players must step up
This is something Luhukay highlighted after their lacklustre second half showing in West London.
“The young players are not the problem,” he said. “It is the experienced players who must take responsibility and then the young players must become the support.”
Sure, Wednesday have let a few big characters and popular figures in the dressing room go over the last couple of months in Glenn Loovens, Ross Wallace and Jack Hunt.
But one thing this Owls squad does not lack is experience.
So now is the time when Wednesday players such as Tom Lees, Daniel Pudil, Sam Hutchinson, Barry Bannan, Fernando Forestieri, Atdhe Nuhiu, Steven Fletcher need to come to the fore. Some of these guys are internationals and have played at the highest level. It’s up to them to stand up and be counted and prove the Owls do have leaders.
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Luhukay refused to be drawn on suggestions his Owls’ players are mentally weak after they were outclassed by a rampant Bees outfit but he questioned their appetite for the fight.
“We were strong in the last two months of last season and that spirit was not there (at Brentford) and that is very disappointing,” he said. “I thought we were progressing and going in a good direction.
“But the last few weeks have been a step back.”
There was a distinct lack of organisation, fight and passion in the second half. Brentford were by far the more accomplished team, winning all of the second balls and registering nine shots on target compared to Wednesday’s one.
There is no shame in losing to a superior side but the manner of the defeat was alarming. If the Owls had dug in and had made the Bees work hard for their victory, supporters probably could have accepted that. But Wednesday appeared resigned to their fate.
Luhukay said: “It is not the start (to the season) we expected. After three games, one point is not enough when you have ambition and want success.”
Stop changing formation
Wednesday have set up in a different formation in each of their three Championship matches. We are just over a fortnight into the new season and the Owls have already tried 3-5-2, 3-4-3 and 4-2-3-1.
The side looked reasonably comfortable early on in their 4-2-3-1 system at Brentford but they lost their way after Neal Maupay’s 20th minute penalty.
“I gave the players the plan and they 100 per cent agreed on how we should play against Brentford,” insisted Luhukay. “When you play a game like we did against Brentford, we must not speak about formations.
“The mentality, when you go one behind, must be to fight for yourself and the team to come back into the game. You have to believe you can get back into the game and we missed that.”
It is Luhukay’s job to prepare and select the team.
But right now, Wednesday’s players look confused and unsure of themselves. Their fragile defence was repeatedly sliced open by the Bees and the ball did not stick up front.
Luhukay should pick a formation and stick with it.
Make a few loan signings
It is impossible not to feel some sympathy for Luhukay. He inherited a tough gig and is still waiting to be given a proper chance to put his mark on the team. Luhukay was unable to revamp his squad over the summer because of club’s transfer embargo.
However, the embargo has been lifted and Wednesday desperately need to bring in reinforcements to lift the mood around the place.
A new centre-half is at the top of their priority list before the loan window closes next week but the Owls could also do with extra pace in the wide areas.
Some perspective is required. Wednesday remain winless in the league but there are 43 matches left. Things can quickly turnaround in football.
What the Owls have to start doing is the basics right and stop overcomplicating things.
Yes Luhukay has made mistakes and has to take his fair share responsibility for the slow start. Yes Luhukay has to get more out of the players at his disposal.
But time is on their side. Everyone needs to keep calm.
A healthy points return from back-to-back home matches with Millwall and Ipswich Town would shoot them up the table and help lift the doom and gloom.