Sheffield Wednesday: Under-fire Jos Luhukay vows to '˜work hard to find solutions'Â
The spotlight will be firmly on Jos Luhukay when he takes his Sheffield Wednesday side to Bramall Lane tomorrow night.
Luhukay suffered the worst defeat of his Owls tenure last weekend, with Wednesday producing a shambolic second half performance at home to Norwich City. The Canaries scored three times in a 11-minute spell after half-time to stroll to a comprehensive 4-0 victory.
The Owls' inept display set the alarm bells ringing and piled the pressure on Luhukay. Four consecutive defeats have seen Wednesday slide towards the Championship relegation zone.
Things appeared to be heading in the right direction when Luhukay steered the Owls into the play-off positions just over a month ago.
But losses to Middlesbrough, Queens Park Rangers, Birmingham City and Norwich mean Wednesday go into Friday's Steel City derby lying in 17th position, just four points above the relegation zone.
Luhukay, who achieved second tier success in Germany, has come under fire for his constant tinkering with formations and personnel. We are over a quarter of the way through the campaign and the former Hertha Berlin and Borussia Monchengladbach chief is no closer to figuring out his best team or system.
He said: "We play in different formations with our defenders, but believe me, whether we have a system or formation, when we gift goals so easy away it has nothing to do with playing three, four or five at the back.
"You must win your one against one, and not stay too far away from your opponent."
Luhukay's controversial decision to ostracise players such as Keiren Westwood and Sam Hutchinson has also incensed a large section of the Owls fan-base. Some supporters chanted Westwood and Hutchinson names in the second half of their humiliating Norwich defeat.
Suggestions that some players have clauses in their contracts that could trigger extensions or have financial implications have been strenuously denied by Luhukay.
His faith in youth has been one of the few beacons of light from Luhukay's reign, albeit a crippling injury list, to some extent, forced his hand. He has given debuts to a raft of academy players this season, including Matt Penney, Fraser Preston, Alex Hunt and Jack Lee.
However, Luhukay has been unable to plug Wednesday's leaky backline. They have the joint-worst defence in the division, having conceded 30 goals this season, and have yet to record a league clean sheet. Wednesday have shipped in 12 goals in their last four outings.
"Everyone can see we are not consistent enough in our defending work," he said. "We do not have the stability that we need."
You can say that again.
Wednesday are a club in crisis as they prepare for a daunting trip to Sheffield United.
Luhukay said: 'We are having the worst period we can have, the last four games. But before that we had a good period.
"Now is a period which nobody expected before the international break, losing four games. But it's happened and together we must fight through this bad period, and hopefully get back to success."
The Owls kicked off the Luhukay era with a spirited, hard-earned goalless draw at Bramall Lane on January 12.
"We can take heart from that performance and the manager has reminded us of how hard we worked that night," said midfielder Adam Reach.
"Jos [Luhukay] had hardly had any time to work with the players or work on shape. He put a team out there and we were plagued with injuries as that point but we worked hard and battled.
"There were not many good periods of play but when you come away with a positive result in the derby I don't think anyone really cares how you play.
"It is all down to ambition and workrate and we definitely showed that when we went down to 10 men. We showed resilience and their goalkeeper pulled off some very good saves at the end, including my long range shot.
"We have shown we can do it and we have still got the majority of the same players this season."
Luhukay said derbies are "always special for the players and fans".
'We will try to find our best way and direction for Friday," he said. "We must do it together and work hard to find the best solutions with the options that we have."
Luhukay's position is coming under ever-increasing scrutiny following a downturn in Wednesday's results. Things have unravelled at an alarming rate, with some fans calling on him to be axed.
Can Luhukay get their season back on track? His team are low on confidence and without a number of key players due to injury.
But the United clash gives Luhukay and his players a shot at redemption.