Sheffield Wednesday: Six things new Owls boss Jos Luhukay needs to sort

Newly-appointed Wednesday manager Jos Luhukay has his work cut out to turn around the Championship club's fortunes.

Monday, 8th January 2018, 12:07 am
Updated Monday, 8th January 2018, 12:15 am
New manager Jos Luhukay with owner Dejphon Chansiri

As he prepares to oversee his first training session, the Dutchman inherits an Owls team that are 16th in the Championship and short on confidence and creativity at both ends of the pitch.

It is a big rebuilding job for Luhukay, who has managed extensively in the German Bundesliga with Hertha Berlin, VFB Stuttgart and Borussia Monchengladbach, and there are a number of issues he immediately needs to address.

Jos Luhukay watches the Owls at Carlisle

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The Star takes a look at some of the most pressing tasks Luhukay must tackle in his bulging in-tray.

Sort out the defence

Luhukay has promised “discipline, effort, commitment and creativity” accepts his first job is to “stabalise the team”. If he is to make that objective a reality, Luhukay has to make the Owls a harder side to break down.

Yes, Wednesday recorded a welcome clean sheet at Carlisle United over the weekend but there were periods in the FA Cup tie where they looked unconvincing.

The fact is, the Owls have gone backwards defensively this season, racking up just five clean sheets in 26 league matches. Keeping shut-outs is what they were so good at in the past.

It is true that injuries have seriously hampered them at the back. Keiren Westwood, Jack Hunt, Glenn Loovens, Tom Lees and Daniel Pudil have all missed big chunks of the campaign and the Owls’ back-up players have struggled to fill their shoes.

With Joost van Aken and Lees out of action until next month, Wednesday are down to the bare bones at centre-half. Glenn Loovens and Frederico Venancio are their only two fit, recognised centre-backs.

But the Owls, as a defensive unit, have undeniably got worse and Luhukay has to get them more compact and organised. Right now, they are too easy to play against.

Bring in new faces

After just one Owls victory in 11 matches, morale is unlikely to be sky high in the dressing room. It has been a gruelling schedule over the Christmas and New Year period and the injuries have carried on piling up. Positive results have been in short supply and Wednesday are just six points off the relegation zone.

It has all gone a little flat and stale at Hillsborough, so bringing in some new faces could lift everybody’s spirits following a difficult period.

The transfer window is open and it will be interesting to see how much money Luhukay will have to play with to reshape his injury-hit squad. The Owls are fighting hard to stay within the Financial Fair Play guidelines and coach Lee Bullen has suggested they may have to rely on the loan market.

Jos Luhukay watches the Owls at Carlisle

“It’s probably more likely to be a loan scenario with regards to the FFP situation,” he said. “It’s players who we feel can hopefully come in and enhance the group and hopefully step straight into the first team and help us and maybe give us a bit of freshness around the place.”

It is understood Luhukay is used to working on a limited budget. Recruiting well in January could spark an Owls revival.

Get Jordan Rhodes firing

Things have not gone according to plan since Rhodes swapped Middlesbrough for South Yorkshire almost 12 months ago. The Owls’ record signing has been a major disappointment, notching nine goals in 44 appearances.

What sums up Rhodes’ struggles is that he has actually made more substitute appearances (13) than starts this season. He failed to make an impact after coming off the bench at Brunton Park and looks utterly bereft of confidence in front of goal.

Given the Owls’ lack of options in attack, Luhukay may have to keep persisting with Rhodes. He doesn’t have many striking alternatives as Fernando Forestieri, Gary Hooper and Steven Fletcher are all sidelined by injury and Sam Winnall is on loan at Derby County. It leaves Luhukay with just Rhodes, Atdhe Nuhiu and Lucas Joao heading into a tough-looking run of fixtures.

Rhodes has never been renowned for the quality of his work outside the penalty area. It is usually inside the 18-yard box where the 27-year-old comes alive. Good deliveries from the wide positions are what Rhodes requires and the onus is now on Luhukay to find a way to get the best out of the £8 million man.

Make Hillsborough a fortress again

If Wednesday are to avoid becoming embroiled in a scrap for survival, they must improve their home form.

Under Carlos Carvalhal, Wednesday picked up the vast majority of their points on their own turf.

But the Owls are on a five-match winless run at Hillsborough and have lost their last three matches in their backyard. You have to go back to October 31 for Wednesday’s last three-point haul on home soil.

It would be nice to see Luhukay bring some flair and invention to the team.

But first things first, the Owls have to stop the rot in front of their own supporters and make teams fear coming to Hillsborough again.

Get the fans back onside

Some Wednesdayites have been vocal in their scepticism of Luhukay’s appointment. His last managerial position was with with VfB Stuttgart in September 2016 and he has never worked before in England.

But Carvalhal was also a left-field appointment and the Portuguese won over the doubters, turning the team into one of the most entertaining sides in the division in his first year at the helm.

It is important Luhukay quickly assesses the tools at his disposal and hits the ground running.

For the Owls, it is all about rapidly reaching the 50-point safety mark as soon as possible. Then Luhukay can look to rebuild for a promotion push next season.

Win the derby

Luhukay faces a daunting first match in charge, the Steel City derby at Bramall Lane in front of the TV cameras on Friday night.

A baptism of fire if ever there was one.

While at Hertha Berlin, Luhukay twice experienced their derbies against city rivals Union Berlin, winning and drawing them. He insists he understands the importance of the match and has vowed to do all he can to lead the Owls to victory.

Bullen said: “It is an amazing game and more than a game, to be honest, from our point of view and from theirs. It is more than a normal game and three points. There’s a heck of a lot more at stake than that. But it is a great first game for a new coach!

“He has been involved in derbies, like the Berlin derby. He will be aware and if he walks the streets of Sheffield in the next few days, then he will soon find out.”

Should Luhukay mastermind a win, he will be an instant hero.