Luhukay effect sees Sheffield Wednesday's rearguard tightened up
The Jos Luhukay era may be in its relative infancy but the Dutchman has already begun tightening up Sheffield Wednesday's defence.
Luhukay arrived at Hillsborough in early January, tasked with steering the club to Championship safety following a dreadful start to the 2017/18 campaign.
After two stellar seasons under Carlos Carvalhal, which saw Wednesday qualify for back-to-back play-off campaigns, the club hit the buffers in the Portuguese’s third season at the helm.
A poor start quickly saw the club slip down the standings and Carvalhal (inset, below left) was relieved of his duties on Christmas Eve.
As well as sliding out of contention for another crack at the top six, most worrying of all was how porous Wednesday’s defence had become.
Just two seasons prior, the Owls’ rearguard was water-tight having matched the club record for most clean sheets in a season with 17.
That record followed the 2014/15 campaign when they also amassed 17 shut-outs.
Statistics show that after Luhukay arrived in S6, Wednesday’s defence tightened up.
Before his arrival, the Owls were conceding an average of 1.31 goals per game.
In 24 games under Luhukay, Wednesday shipped 29 goals at a rate of 1.2 goals per game.
Small margins perhaps, but it looks even more impressive when you consider Luhukay also recorded more clean sheets.
The Owls kept nine shut-outs following Luhukay’s arrival compared to six in 29 games beforehand.
Indeed, Luhukay started his reign with three consecutive clean sheets.
The Steel City derby away to Sheffield United was seen as a baptism of fire for the former Hertha Berlin chief, but a solid display was a sign of things to come as spoils were shared in a 0-0 draw at Bramall Lane.
It was a good platform for the Dutchman, who quickly set about implementing his three-man defence.
This paid dividends with a further six clean sheets achieved against Cardiff, Middlesbrough, Derby, Hull, Reading and Wolves in the league and Carlisle and Swansea in the FA Cup.
Two seasons ago when Wednesday reached the Championship play-off final, they had a relatively settled goalkeeper and back-four.
Keiren Westwood, Daniel Pudil, Tom Lees, Glenn Loovens and Jack Hunt (inset, below) were the mainstays in that side and averaged 37 appearances that season.
In 2017/18 the aforementioned quintet were heavily affected by injuries and as a result only reached an average of 25 games - perhaps one of the reasons why 15 more goals were shipped last term.
With a new formation now in situ, Loovens having departed and major question marks over Westwood’s future, Luhukay has plenty of decisions to make next season as he looks to reconstruct the club’s defensive foundations.