Why Jos Luhukay has shown a lot of bravery since taking charge: Jon Newsome's Sheffield Wednesday Column
A week is a long time in football and there isn't a better example of this than the past seven days in the life of Jos Luhukay, the new manager of Sheffield Wednesday.
His first task was to try and find a team to tackle our most bitter rivals from across the city with just four days notice. Not an easy job by any stretch of the imagination and even more so when you consider that he probably knew little if anything about the majority of the players he had at his disposal. I was interested to see that he had gone with three centre backs with wing-backs, which again in itself was a brave decision bearing in mind the limited time that he had to work with the players.
The performance that the players put in on Friday night was testament to themselves and the new manager. There were times when we looked disjointed, when we looked in certain circumstances like we hadn’t quite grasped the formation but it was a gritty, determined performance, full of running and spirit and it was good to see. Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not celebrating the 0-0 like some would have you believe but bearing in mind what we have been served up and witnessed over the last few months it was a much better performance and under difficult circumstances too, made even more difficult with Glenn Loovens' red card.
Ironically I felt we got forward more with ten men than with 11 and could easily have nicked it in the end with two or three decent chances. I left the ground quite content in what I had seen and it gave me hope for what the new man can do for us. He seems to speak well in the interviews I have seen and it seems quite apparent that his knowledge of the game is there for everyone to see.
People will assume that players can play any formation, at any time and that it doesn’t affect your game. This couldn’t be further from the truth and one of the most demanding positions when you are playing with a three or a five if you are including wing-backs are the wing-backs themselves.
Lets take Liam Palmer and Morgan Fox for example. The two players asked to play that role last Friday. Most people would think it’s the same role as they have played in a flat back four but the roles are completely different. When you play as an orthodox full back you are always mindful of covering your central defender. You will see full backs tuck in and leave the winger in plenty of space when the ball is on the opposite wing and only engage him when he has possession. As a wing-back the need for covering your central defenders is far less of a concern, because they already have a ‘safety net’ as it is with the spare central defender.
That is when a wing-back is given far more freedom in an attacking sense and can go and engage his wide man earlier. Most of this comes through communication and this is one of the biggest parts of the game that I feel many spectators don’t realise. On a match day with the noise from the crowd you are limited in what you can hear from the players but a ‘talker’ is vital in any team, and more the merrier in my opinion. Watch a training game or a game behind closed doors and on so many occasions I’ve heard people comment on how noisy it is or how vocal the payers are. This comes into its own when you play with this new formation as the three centre backs need to be constantly organising and passing on information to each other. The last thing you want is for both players to assume the other is marking the centre forward only for him to drift in between you unmarked and cause you issues.
The visit of Carlisle in an FA Cup replay was a game that I am sure everyone would agree we could have done without. What with the well-documented injuries and Loovens' suspension I was really pleased to see a couple of the U23’s given an opportunity along with a host of other changes. The weather couldn’t have been much worse but both Connor O’Grady and Frederik Nielsen wouldn’t have minded. To be called up to play, under the lights on a cold and wet Tuesday night will have probably been what they have been dreaming about for years and I thought they both had excellent games.
I didn’t feel we really got out of the blocks in the first half as a team and the goal by Marco Matias seemed to really settle our nerves. We did better in the second half and looked to have more energy and purpose about our play and big Atdhe’s finish was the icing on the cake really. It was a potential banana skin that the players got through and the all-important part was being through to the next round.
I would be interesting to know what Jos Luhukay's goals and targets are for the rest of the season. I am sure it will take him a couple of months to familiarise himself with the Championship and a decent cup run could well be the little bit of added spice to add some positivity to a dwindling season. To get to fifty points as quickly as possible I guess would be one too.
The visit of Cardiff and Neil Warnock on Saturday will be yet another test for the manager and his depleted squad. No one will want to get one over on us more than Mr Warnock. His love for Sheffield Wednesday has been well documented over the years but you have to give him credit with his team pushing for one of the automatic promotion spots. With the positives from last Friday I really do think there is something to build on and bearing in mind that the majority of the players who performed against United will have had over a week between games I expect them to give it a really good go.