'Moore-ball' explained: How Sheffield Wednesday are adapting to their new style of play

It’s been a difficult few weeks for Sheffield Wednesday.

Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 6:14 pm

Not long ago the Owls were top of the table and four matches into the season without conceding, prompting terrace dreams of a near wire-to-wire assault on the automatic promotion places.

And while the ambition of finishing in those places is still burning bright after just seven League One matches, it is clear things need to improve in a few areas as Darren Moore’s influence on the new-look side continues to permeate.

Let’s take a look at some stats that tell the tale of an up-and-down season so far.

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Sheffield Wednesday manager Darren Moore talks things over with coach Neil Thompson.

Move it faster?

Criticism has been levelled at Wednesday to suggest the don’t move the ball quickly enough, though strides have clearly been made in this area.

In League One football this season so far, only five teams have moved the ball at a faster rate than Wednesday’s 13.1 passes per minute of possession.

Among these clubs are MK Dons (14.7), Lincoln City (14.2) and Bolton Wanderers (13.6), whose game plans have sought to move the ball quickly for some time.

This isn’t quite the case at Wednesday, whose rate of 12.4 passes per 90 minutes in Championship football last season put them in the midtable of that metric’s league table.

Moore and his staff are regularly heard willing their players on to move the ball more quickly, a work in progress at Middlewood Road.

Long no more..

Last season under four different managers – five if you include Jamie Smith – Wednesday were ninth in the Championship table when it came to the number of long passes played, launching it 50.73 times every 90 minutes.

The likes of top three Barnsley (60.74), Preston North End (57.31) and Blackburn Rovers (54.53) were among those to rank above them.

Fast forward to this season and Wednesday are preferring to play a much shorter game, playing only 46.04 long balls per 90 minutes, a ranking that would have seen them fifth-bottom in last season’s Championship ratings.

Indeed, only Cambridge United (43.69) have played long passes at a lower rate in League One this season.

Moore has spoken about a preference to ‘play out from the back’, a style Wednesday continue to adapt to as the season goes on.

How has this transpired?

Time with the ball has been vast at Wednesday in the early stages of this campaign – not least as at Morecambe, where they had a season-high of 68 per cent possession.

Their overall possession rate of 56 per cent puts them third in the division behind only pass masters MK Dons (61.2) and Bolton (57.8).

Darren Moore has spoken about the need to be able to find a way to break down teams allowing them a lot of the ball, the Morecambe defeat in which they achieved an xG of only 0.64 a prime example.

Their season xG of 9.3 (1.33 per 90 minutes played) is higher than the six goals they have scored, meaning the players have to make more of the chances presented to them. But that metric puts them only in midtable in terms of the quality of chances they have created across the course of the season.

It’s all a work in progress, but on a run of three without a win, adaptation is needed at S6.