Sheffield Wednesday matchÂ analysis: How Birmingham City exploited the Owls' soft underbelly
Sheffield Wednesday are the most maddeningly inconsistent team in the Championship.
There is no denying the Owls possess some top Championship talent in their ranks. Barry Bannan, Adam Reach and Fernando Forestieri are quality operators at this level.
But are Wednesday a strong, formidable team? Their alarming dip in form suggests otherwise.
This Owls side has a worrying habit of going from boom to bust. They have put in good performances, indifferent performances and downright ugly ones this season.
Things looked rosy in the Wednesday garden three weeks ago when they moved into the play-off positions after beating Bristol City. Fans were daring to dream of another promotion push and a possible Premier League return.
However, the Owls have slipped to 15th in the rankings after suffering three straight Championship defeats in a little over a week since the international break. Two goals scored. Eight conceded. Six points adrift of sixth-placed Derby County.
Where has it all gone wrong?
Manager Jos Luhukay has to take his share of the blame for the dramatic downturn in Wednesday's results. There is no consistency in his team selection or formation. He made three further changes for the trip to St Andrew's (one was enforced because of Daniel Pudil's injury) and appears no closer to figuring out what his best 11 is, never mind system.
When Luhukay was appointed in January, he impressively steadied the ship. He tightened the team up at the back and made them harder to beat. Wednesday chalked up a number of clean sheets in the early part of Luhukay's reign.
But the Dutchman has constantly altered his personnel in defence this termÂ and the Owls have failed to keep a league shut out in 15 attempts. Where has the defensive solidity Luhukay initially brought in gone?
Yet this is an experienced, expensively assembled team and they should be performing far better than what they have done in the last three outings. They have let Luhukay and their loyal supporters down.
Wednesday should have been out of sight after dominating the majority of the first half against an in-form Birmingham outfit.
Steven Fletcher, restored to the attack at the expense of top-scorer Lucas Joao, fired them in front after 19 minutes but Liam Palmer squandered two glorious chances to increase their advantage. How the defender blazed over his second opportunity from inside the six-yard box just before the half hour mark after good work by Fletcher at the back post is still a mystery.
Birmingham City manager Garry Monk said: "We got lucky in the first half an hour. They could have been two or three up and we could not have had any complaints as they would have thoroughly deserved that lead."
Palmer's glaring, inexplicable miss was the turning point.
Birmingham ruthlessly exposed the Owls' soft underbelly again. Connor Mahoney curled in a spectacular 43rd minute equaliser to pave the way for a fourth victory on the bounce.
"We managed to get our first goal against the run of play and we were lucky to be in that position at half-time," concededÂ Monk.
The Owls were second best after the break. They were toothless in attack,Â lost the midfield battle and crumbled defensively again.
Two goals in the last 10 minutes from deadly duo Lukas Jutkiewicz and Che Adams extended the Blues' unbeaten run to 11 matches.
Luhukay said: "The result is very disappointing for us.
"We played so well in the first half. We scored a goal and created chances to score more. If we had scored the second goal, we would have been in a very good position to win the game.
"But they made it 1-1 before half-time and we didn't play well in the second half. We were not as dangerous in the offensive moments as we were in the first.
"Birmingham had the initiative. They created chances and had dangerous moments.
"They profited from our defensive work for the second and third goals. We were not consistent enough to clear the chances Birmingham created.
"We gave everything to the end but it was not enough to win."
NOT UP TO SCRATCH
Of the last 14 goals Wednesday have conceded, 12 have been scored in the second half. They wilted badly. Where is the fight and backbone in this team?
Their individual error count is high andÂ Luhukay must quickly find a way to cure the side's fragile defence.
Luhukay is without a number of key players, including Forestieri, Kieran Lee and Gary Hooper, due toÂ injury and the club are going through a big transitional period.Â Yet his side continueÂ to put inÂ Jekyll and Hyde displays.
Luhukay said:Â 'We will hopefully give a good answer next Saturday after a terrible week.'
To paraphrase Luhukay, this team is not in a good moment and there is little confidence or trust in their work.Â The Owls are going backwards.Â