Sheffield Wednesday: Retained list, free agents and injury investigations – Eight items on Darren Moore’s to-do list ahead of pre-season
The 2021/22 season is dead.. well, for Sheffield Wednesday at least. Long live 2022/23.
Pre-season will soon be upon us and while fixtures are organised and training returns formalised, Darren Moore and his staff have a great deal of work to do to ensure the Owls’ promotion campaign is not cut short next time out.
There’s a lot more besides, but here are eight key jobs on the Wednesday manager’s to-do list.
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Sort the retained list
It is the moment every year that a line is drawn under the previous season and attention fully turns to what’s ahead.
And as we head towards the Saturday deadline for Wednesday to hand their ‘released and retained’ list over to the EFL, we can expect communication from the Owls before that cut-off as to which of the soon-to-be out-of-contract players is to be released, which have been offered new deals and which have had extensions triggered.
When that moment comes we’ll have a far better idea of the sort of business the club will be looking to do and where they will need to strengthen.
Will it arrive Thursday or Friday? They’ll be well on with it.
Restructure the goalkeeping department
What to do with the goalkeepers?
Bailey Peacock-Farrell came in on loan this season and as things stand it looks unlikely he’ll return. Back-up man Joe Wildsmith also looks destined for the exit door.
The position of Cameron Dawson in the eyes of Moore is a point of debate as things stand. He’s made it clear he’ll be given a chance to impress but it remains to be seen whether his highly successful loan stint at Exeter has done enough to make him number one.
If not, they’ll have to do some work to bring in a new face – or two – between the sticks.
Shrewsbury stopper Marko Marosi, a former Doncaster Rovers man, has been linked with an Owls switch. He won’t be the last.
Decide on a system
Though Moore has said he wants his squads to be tactically flexible, recruitment will be centred on what system he wants Wednesday to play the majority of the time.
Why would they change from the 3-5-2 that secured them fourth place and a league-best effort after Christmas? Perhaps they won’t.
But depending on who is lost and who is available, it could be that the side revert back to the 4-2-3-1 Moore has preferred at other clubs, or perhaps the 4-3-3 variation they played with mixed results at the start of the season.
Get some defenders in
Sure, 22-year-old Ciaran Brennan is around and Liam Palmer counts if you’re talking about a back three, but ahead of the retained list announcement, Dominic Iorfa is the only contracted senior centre-half guaranteed to be around next season.
There are some steady options out there and if required Wednesday are able to spend some cash, so Moore should be able to mould that area of the squad better to his liking.
Though not all their defensive lapses can be attributed to those classed as defenders, Wednesday had issues at the back in moments this season, issues that cost them dearly when it mattered most of course.
Expect movement at the back as Moore attempts to shore things up a touch.
Jump into the freebie market
Other clubs have been able to move faster to get their retained lists out and some decent names are available.
Could Tom Eaves, Freddie Ladapo or Vadaine Oliver prove to be worthwhile options as Wednesday look to add a little firepower? Would either Will Boyle or Jack Tucker be suited to a role at the back?
The players are out there and no doubt Wednesday are going about their business sifting through the ones they want. But free agents are a valuable commodity and races for their services can often descend into something of a bunfight – the Owls have no time to waste.
Get business done early
A need to release half a squad following relegation and a registration embargo that stretched long into July meant Wednesday’s pre-season started off as a bit of a mess. Moore and his coaching staff had to make do with teenage trialists making up the numbers.
All those months ago, Barry Bannan himself spoke of his frustration at the way things were going leading into their return from their summer break and in truth the club were behind the eight ball by the time the embargo was lifted.
There should be no such problems here and Wednesday should be looking to get their business done early and hit the ground running when it comes to pre-season.
What a boost it would be to have a key signing or two sorted for that first training session back.
Continue the injury investigation
Moore hasn’t been too drawn when asked about the investigation into Wednesday’s long-held injury issues.
Changes have been made in that training regimes have been tweaked and experts – including yoga teachers – have been brought in to stem the flow of issues.
The summer offers an opportunity to go deeper into these issues and make further changes ahead of pre-season.
Lower the average age
‘Solid citizens’ is how Moore described the experienced individuals he was able to bring in last summer. Most had Championship experience and the Owls had the second-oldest squad in League One last season.
Now his transfer wings are not clipped, will the squad see a move towards the fearless young squad closer to what he had at Doncaster Rovers? That’s his call.
It’s going to be a fascinating few weeks.