Sheffield Wednesday: Why it took Tom Lees time to adapt to Owls' three-man defence
It was far from perfect.
But Jos Luhukay’s tactical decision to revert back to a three-man defence paid dividends in Wednesday’s hard-fought victory at Hull City last weekend.
It was no surprise Luhukay utilised a 3-5-2 formation at the KCOM Stadium. His call to field a back four the match before against Queens Park Rangers spectacularly backfired as the Owls trailed by three goals to nil inside the opening quarter of an hour.
Luhukay has largely favoured a three-man defence in his 21 matches in charge and the system has been successfully deployed in recents weeks, with Wednesday winning four of their last six Championship outings.
Stand-in Owls captain Tom Lees led from the front on Saturday, producing an immaculate display at the heart of the Owls’ rearguard. He was ably supported by Frederico Venancio and Jordan Thorniley, with Jack Hunt and George Boyd providing the width in the wing-back positions.
By his own admission, it took Lees some time to adapt to Luhukay’s system. But the 27-year-old sees no reason why the team can’t prosper with that setup in the long run.
“Teams have done well in the Championship in the past playing three at the back,” he told The Star.
“It is something different to me.
“I think centre-halves are probably the biggest affected on the pitch. It gives full-backs a little bit more licence to attack so they have to work a bit harder because getting more up and down.
“As a centre-half, it takes a little bit of time to get used to it because you are never really settled in one position. You are always going across from one side to the other as you have a man less. You have to be aware of that.
“Teams who come up against three at the back will generally try and stretch it wide and try and call your bluff and try and pull you out of position. It has taken a bit of getting used but it has been good in the last few games.”
Lees is refusing to get carried away despite a big improvement in Wednesday’s results over the last month. He insists a “lot of things need to change” if the Owls are to be in the hunt for promotion next term.
“There’s a lot of things that need to change as obviously this season has not been good enough,” said the defender.
“When you look at performances now, even when we’re getting players back we should be a team that are dominating games and I thought we got dominated (at Hull) to be honest.
“It’s always good to win and we have not enjoyed the last few games – losing twice and getting battered at QPR – so everyone goes away happy.
“But we rode our luck at other times and showed what we have to work on for next season.”