Why the 2018/19 season was a season of two halves for Sheffield Wednesday
The 2018/19 campaign was a real season of two halves from a defensive standpoint for Sheffield Wednesday.
Former boss Jos Luhukay failed to lay any solid foundations in the first half of last term. Defensive lapses in concentration cost the Owls at regular intervals and Luhukay significantly contributed to their problems by constantly chopping and changing his starting eleven.
Players looked at times unsure of themselves and confused over their roles. There was a lack of clarity and understanding where there should have been none at all.
"It is important, as a defensive unit, that you know what the person next to you is going to do because if you make a mistake at the back it will inevitably lead to a goal or a chance for the opposition," acknowledged left-back Morgan Fox. "It helps to rely on each other and our games."
Under Luhukay, Wednesday had the worst defensive record in the Championship, conceding 40 goals in 22 matches. They chalked up a meagre two clean sheets.
But Lee Bullen steadied the ship after taking over on a caretaker basis just before Christmas. He recalled out-of-favour trio Keiren Westwood, Sam Hutchinson and George Boyd and reverted to a flat-back four. Michael Hector and Tom Lees formed a strong partnership at the heart of their rearguard and Hutchinson brought defensive nous and aggression to their midfield.
The back-to-basics approached worked a treat, with the Owls recording two clean sheets and shipping in just two goals in Bullen's four matches in charge.
Steve Agnew and Steve Bruce maintained Bullen's good work as Wednesday racked up an outstanding 12 shut-outs in 24 outings.
Fox said: "We turned things around defensively after leaking a lot of goals at the start of the season.
"A lot of the goals seemed to came from restarts.
"We took a long look at ourselves and worked hard with Aggers (Steve Agnew) and Clem (Stephen Clemence) when they first came in.
"If you can keep clean sheets, it gives you a platform to build on and that is what we tried to do."
Fox has also praised Bruce's influence.
"He has had a massive impact on the group," he said. "The boys have big respect for him for what he has done as both a player and a manager elsewhere in the game.
"It all helps on the training pitch and the staff he has brought with him in Aggers and Clem work closely with us every day.
"It is totally different to how it was and the boys really bought into it from day one. They have been a big influence on us, especially on me."