Teeth, snores and an angry striker: SIX big takes from Sheffield Wednesday’s bore draw with Stoke
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It’s baby-steps at this stage of course, as Pulis attempts to stamp his authority on the side and drag his tired squad into sunnier climes.
And while the snore draw delivered little in the way of highlights, there were talking points. Let’s take a look at just six of them.
They can be unedifying and crude, football statistics. And they’re most often dragged out in times of extremity; to illustrate something excellent or something woeful.. So here we go.
The expected goals (xG) statistic for Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday afternoon was 0.14, meaning that based on the quality of chances that resulted in an Owls shot, over the course of six full matches they would score one goal.
From day one in the job Pulis made no secret of his summation that the Owls had too little going forward and that has continued. Wednesday have scored only seven goals in their 14 league matches and their manager knows the score. The problem is, it’s often nil.
“You need goals and people who can sniff out goals for you,” he said.
“We’ve got Josh [Windass] coming back after suspension following the game on Wednesday night and hopefully that will help us a little bit but we need to get through to the window and, fingers crossed, we can hopefully get some more quality in.”
Stoke’s xG was only 0.56, as it goes. When we say it wasn’t a classic, we’re not fibbing.
..but good signs at the back
Fair’s fair, so let’s wheel out another stat. Wednesday have conceded only 12 goals in their 14 league matches this season, which is just one more than both top side Norwich and third-placed Watford, and fewer than the rest of the top six. It’s promotion-level defending.
The Owls defence looks resolute and confident, shutting down attacks at source. Considering the injuries they are harbouring and the fact not long ago they were consistent only in their defensive inconsistency, that’s not something to be sniffed at.
Julian Börner and Tom Lees have been excellent at the heart of proceedings and those around them have been disciplined in their roles. Put it this way, you struggle to see Pulis’ Wednesday lose matches three or five-nil.
So what’s the plan?
There are eight matches between now and January, or 13 before the January transfer window opens. So what’s the plan to get the goals flowing in the meantime?
Josh Windass misses one more match and will no doubt act as the front man to the attack, while the return of Kadeem Harris added pace and invention to the Wednesday effort if not masses of quality when it came to the final ball.
It’s something we should expect to see more of as Pulis attempts to get his main man more involved in their final third output.
He did alright, Liam Shaw, making just his third senior start for Wednesday and the his first in his preferred position.
With Bannan seemingly destined for a more expansive role, it may be that Shaw is given further opportunities in midfield alongside Luongo.
He was taken off at half-time, with Pulis confirming it was because he was concerned about the fact he was on a yellow card, and there were Stoke attacks that saw Shaw sucked out of the game.
As his manager said in the week, if the club’s youngsters are good enough, they’ll play. He did himself little harm.
There was a moment where all at Hillsborough paused, when Izzy Brown was stood stripped pitchside and ready to go. Who would he come on for? Callum Paterson maybe? Massimo Luongo?
And then it came; Jordan Rhodes’ number 20. Dropped having been taken off after 50 minutes in midweek, brought on at half-time, the £8m striker was hooked as Wednesday searched for a goal. Ouch.
Rhodes shook his head, slumped his shoulders and dragged himself humiliated from the field. The acknowledgement between player and manager was non-existent and coupled with Pulis’ post-match comments about a lack of quality up top, the club record signing’s self-set mission to earn a new contract looks more and more fanciful.
Working from the Hillsborough press box for a national radio station, former Sheffield Wednesday player Michael Gray raised a chuckle when he described the encounter as ‘the worst he has ever covered’.
It had to be up there for most of those present. It was a match completely devoid of magic between two sides clearly showing the effects of what has already been a gruelling season.
The concern now is that we’re just 14 rounds into the Championship calendar and with the scoring rate of the whole division crashing through the floor, things look only to be going one way.
Buckle up, because it’s not only Sheffield Wednesday that are heading into a war of attrition. It’s going to be a long winter.
Sheffield Wednesday: Wildsmith; Palmer, Lees, Börner, van Aken; Reach, Shaw (Rhodes, 45 (Brown, 85)), Luongo, Bannan, Harris (Odubajo 83); Paterson
Subs unused: Dawson, Pelupessy, Penney, Dele-Bashiru, Hunt, Kachunga
Stoke City: Bursik, Collins, Chester, Batth, Fox, Obi (Cousins, 76), Clucas, Campbell, Powell, McClean (Brown, 79), Gregory (Vokes 26)
Subs unused: Lindsay, Ince, Smith, Oakley-Boothe, Tymon, Nna Noukeu