Darren Moore switch-up shows ‘Plan B’ option for Sheffield Wednesday – with new signings key to system

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Sheffield Wednesday will hit the training ground to tighten-up on where they went wrong in a lacklustre performance against Barnsley over the weekend.

And it may well be that they spend some time on the finer points of a switch-up system seen in the defeat after signings brought in late in the window served to offer out more options for Darren Moore.

The Owls have more or less stuck to close variations of the 3-5-2 system employed as injuries struck the club a few weeks into last season.

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And largely that system has worked, taking the club to a fourth-placed finish, some of the best home form in the country and to a play-off semi-final in which they were beaten by eventual winners Sunderland.

Sheffield Wednesday's Michael Smith is back fit and was used as a substitute in Saturday's derby defeat.Sheffield Wednesday's Michael Smith is back fit and was used as a substitute in Saturday's derby defeat.
Sheffield Wednesday's Michael Smith is back fit and was used as a substitute in Saturday's derby defeat.
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But questions have been asked about the Owls’ tactical flexibility and their ability to move away from a three at the back system, particularly in matches they are chasing or in matches away from home. But a marked switch was made in the last 20 minutes of Saturday’s fixture that could hint at wider use as the season rolls on.

What was the change?

Moore shocked many on Saturday by substituting Josh Windass, who was a long way from his best but has already shown the capability to make things happen even in quieter displays.

Mark McGuinness, who looked the most comfortable on the ball of the back three in the face of a tireless Barnsley press, was also taken off.

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When Michael Smith was brought on in place of Marvin Johnson, those subs allowed Wednesday to change to a back four, with the fresh legs of new boys Alex Mighten and Mallik Wilks pushed out as inverted wingers and Lee Gregory placed in behind target man Smith in a variation of a 4-2-3-1 Moore has preferred at previous clubs.

How did it go?

To put it bluntly, not great. Barnsley scored their second and killed the game just minutes after the switch and with a two-goal cushion were able to camp even deeper and see out the remainder of the game.

But it showed a definite ‘Plan B’, with Wednesday going more direct with both Smith and Gregory to aim at up top. It was no ‘lump it long’ alamo, but there was a definite change in tact.

Their average pass length was almost four metres longer in the final half hour of match, they entered the final third almost twice as often and their average shot distance dropping from a speculative 25.54 metres to 8.52 metres.

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Alas, they were still unable to break the deadlock and their best chances fell to Gregory before the change was made.

Who is key to the system?

New faces are central to the ‘Plan B’ option, you’d think.

Smith’s aerial ability allows Wednesday to go longer – nobody won more aerial duels in the time he was on the field – while the pace and running ability of Mighten and Wilks opens up new possibilities and angles from which the Owls can work from.

Add in the delivery of the likes of Windass and Barry Bannan and on a brighter day, there should be enough quality to lean on a more direct approach.

Work to be done, but there’s certainly something there.