Sheffield Wednesday: How can Garry Monk get the best out of Moses Odubajo?
Reputations in football can often be set into motion on single, eye-catching moves.
Wednesday boss Garry Monk said as much in a press conference last month; that the reputation of a team as a free-thinking-short-pass machine can be confirmed with one memorable free-flowing goal or Barcelona-esque passing move.
And the same is for players. The right move, at the right time, can place an imprint on the mind of a supporter, manager, or indeed football writer, that refuses to shake. That, the mind’s eye tells them for weeks and months afterwards, is what that player does.
Such sliding door theory could well be attached to Moses Odubajo’s early days at Sheffield Wednesday.
The score at 4-1 at Middlesbrough, sun rays beating down on his back and Wednesday songs filling the Teesside air, the right-back overlapped England u21 Dael Fry as if didn’t exist. The ball had been flicked joyously from Massimo Luongo to Adam Reach to Steven Fletcher and receiving the ball on his instep, he shot confidently only for Boro stopper Darren Randolph to parry wide.
Had that overlapping climax to such an eye-catching passing move been converted, the opening weeks of Odubajo’s Owls career would no doubt be perceived differently. That, the mind’s eye would have suggested, is what Moses Odubajo does.
As it stands though, the recurring vignette attached to the 26-year-old – somewhat unfairly – is a horror show at Deepdale during which he conceded two penalties and the jury is out.
Solid displays have been interspersed with questionable outings and after the circulation of a statistic confirming that eight of Wednesday’s first nine shipped goals this season had been conceded from attacks to their right-hand side, fingers were understandably pointed in Odubajo’s direction.
Since that day at Preston he has benefited from a long run in the team offered by both Lee Bullen and Garry Monk, producing performances littered with glimpses of a top Championship player, particularly going forward. The issue remains that there are also glimpses of positional confusion and lapses in concentration at the back.
The fact is that the former Brentford starlet is playing a role far more conservative than any he has played previously. Monk has expressed his desire to get the Owls defence right first and foremost, with impressive results, but he has played this simple with little room for expression and it is his right-back who has suffered most.
Days before his signing, Dave Lane, writer for Brentford fanzine Beesotted, told The Star: “Wednesday have got themselves a proper player and I think he will do well for them and could become a real crowd favourite. He’s such an exciting player and attacking football suits him.
“You’ve got to give him that freedom. In a more rigid system I think it might be a case of clipping his wings.”
Just how rigid a system Garry Monk chooses to employ at Sheffield Wednesday going forward remains to be seen. The manager has said he is to examine the Owls’ offensive options in this international break and of the very many players keeping a close eye on his ideas in the coming days, Odubajo will be one of the more invested.
Tom Lees is likely to re-enter the starting line-up for Wednesday’s next match, live in front of the Sky television cameras at Cardiff on October 18. The skipper’s return to fitness offers Monk the opportunity to give Odubajo a rest, moving an in-form Dominic Iorfa out to the right.
Whether or not Odubajo needs it is up to Garry Monk.