Why I was pleased to see the return of a more familiar tactical approach: Jon Newsome's Sheffield Wednesday Column
So after a week of two defeats against Fulham and QPR and more worryingly a terrible start to the game at Loftus Road we made the somewhat easier trip up the road to the KCOM stadium and Hull City.
I am sure most Wednesday fans would agree that since our painful defeat to them at Wembley nearly two seasons ago it has been somewhat a turbulent ride following the Owls. If you consider the craziness of what has happened to Hull City in that time with a season in the Premier League and then flirting with relegation in their first season back after dropping out of the top flight would you have wanted to swap places with them?
Now, I’m not saying our paths would have taken the same course but when you take a look at their starting line up and it is littered with Premiership clubs' loan players it does make you wonder. I’m as guilty as the next man in wanting the club to be progressing and moving forward in the right direction but sometimes you have to be careful in what you wish for in football and a couple of decent performances and victories is as welcome as the seemingly first rays of spring's sunshine that were on show on Saturday.
Due to yet more injuries Jos Luhukay had to shuffle the pack again and I was pleased to see that he had reverted back to three centre-backs from Tuesday's flat back four. I think playing this way fits our personnel far better than a four, mainly because we have no wingers in our side. When you are playing with a flat back four there needs to be a screen or some help in front of the full backs.
Against QPR we had Lucas Joao and Fernando Forestieri playing as wide strikers/midfielders. You could tell that they were both pretty unsure about their defensive roles and I felt that the full-backs were far too exposed. With the three centre-backs there isn’t as much emphasis on the full backs having to cover their centre-backs because you already have the extra man in the middle. In essence he is your insurance policy, safety net, call him what you like but we are tighter and more solid and it is easy to see that we defend better this way.
Hull were pretty decent coming forward and we defended well on Saturday. Overall I thought we played some decent football and I was delighted to see Jordan Rhodes put in, in my opinion, his best performance since arriving at the club. His movement for the goal was what you would have come to expect from a big-ticket striker but it was his work rate and willingness to run and take the fight to the Hull defenders that pleased me most. He was absolutely dead on his feet with about ten minutes to go and had put in a proper shift as they say. Hopefully he can kick on from this performance and go into the summer on a more positive note.
To get to the fifty-point marker was a bit of a milestone really and I think everyone in and around the club will have been breathing a sigh of relief. You would like to think that the worry of being in a relegation battle is behind us now and it is up to the management and players to do their absolute upmost to finish this season with as much positivity as possible.
With just three games to go, one being away at promoted and probable champions Wolverhampton Wanderers there really is all to play for from the players’ perspective.
I am assuming that Jos Luhukay will be given the opportunity to stay on into next season. I say this because the planning for next year should really have started some time ago. Who is to be kept on, sold on, released, purchased are all massive decisions that take a lot of planning. If certain individuals are to be ‘let go’ or moved on, replacements have to be in place or planned for. Mr Chansiri will have to work within the restraints of the financial fair play rules and so unlimited investment is not an option. We have seen that by simply throwing big money at players and contracts don’t necessarily buy you success, the game is far more difficult than that.
The bonus for us should hopefully be that if we can get the majority of our injured players fit over the summer months and prepare them for the season to come it will be like having a host of new signings anyway.
Again, Saturdays visitors Reading have had their own topsy-turvy season or two and I just hope that the players can give us something in the next three games to go into the summer with a little bit of optimism for next year.