The deep-dive into the numbers behind why Sheffield Wednesday's Adam Reach deserves this break from football more than most
and live on Freeview channel 276
The 27-year-old has been an imitation of the flying goal threat he offered last time out, a tribute act to the dependable asset he’s been since his arrival from Middlesbrough in 2016.
And he’s a player that may well get more out of football’s coronavirus suspension than most. The numbers suggest Reach has been flogged in recent seasons and was well worthy of a break. The numbers suggest he’s a man damaged by overexposure in years gone by.
“My own season’s been similar to the team’s, a little bit topsy-turvy," Reach said at the start of April. “I’ve had some good moments and some not-so-good moments.
“Consistency has been a positive of my time at this club but this season it’s been down a bit.”
That it has. There have been glimmers of Reach’s capabilities and few could question his effort, but the fact is his goal threat and general contribution to the game has nosedived this term.
In general play, he’s been successful in less than half his actions this campaign - 49.5 per cent - compared to a success rate of over 60 per cent in his last two seasons at the club and 59.7 per cent in his first.
The numbers suggest that he’s less involved in matches generally, too, producing a Wednesday-career low of 55.8 actions per 90 minutes he’s played this season. The average number of actions-per-90 in his three seasons previously was 63.14.
But looking back at his involvement since joining the Owls, a downturn in form was perhaps inevitable. In his debut 2016/17 season, including two games in which he was rested, the 26-year-old played in 92 per cent of all minutes played by Sheffield Wednesday in the league that season. Difficult for any player, but for a man of Reach’s work rate, operating as he did for much of the season as an all-action left wing-back? It was a summer well-earned.
It came and went and in 2017/18, Reach went to the well once more and then some. Of 4140 minutes of normal time played by the Owls in the league that year, Reach missed 72, meaning he was on the field more than 98 per cent of the time. From the first kick of the Championship season, Reach had to wait until the end of February for a single second’s break in the league. Where others were rested, he played full matches in the FA Cup third-round tie at Carlisle and in an EFL Cup first-round clash with Chesterfield.
In 2018/19? A similar tale. Reach was injured for a matchday three trip to Brentford but from that clash in August to a mid-February trip to Leeds he played all but four minutes in 39 matches. He started on the bench at Elland Road but was hurriedly brought on four minutes into the second half. Hardly surprising then that he missed three of the final four matches through injury. Up until that point he played in 98.2 per cent of Owls action.
This season Reach’s fitness and form became a concern as early as October. The former Boro boy was regularly pictured training with a support on his knee and received unwarranted scrutiny over his weight after a cruelly-angled photograph did the rounds on social media.
Owls boss Garry Monk said early on in his reign that Reach’s potential as a player was one of the factors that had brought him to the club. He laughed off any notion of a lack of physical fitness in Reach, who by November was in and out of the side for the first time in his Hillsborough career.
Asked about Reach’s form he told The Star: “I am not concerned at all. I am not here to pick holes in players, I will let other people do that. I am here to help them.
“All I can say is the players are giving everything every day, they are committed, and that’s the most important thing for me. Fans can relate to that, if they see people put in effort and commitment.
“But then there’s also times when you need to rotate, put freshness in, and that’s the challenge of a Championship season. You can change a player, and people might say that’s related to form, but not always.”
The impact of sports science ‘ace in the pack’ Tony Strudwick, new to the club this season, has had on these decisions is unknown of course. But his is a voice Monk trusts on such matters.
Though their own form has ebbed and flowed, Kadeem Harris and Jacob Murphy have provided wide options and competition for places that weren’t as evident in previous seasons, giving Monk the option to rest one of his star men, rotating the trio in recent months.
And from February he has been injured, perhaps a by-product of the battles that came before, at a time that Garry Monk needed him most. Reach said last month: “Unfortunately the consistency’s not there. I think that’s what leaves the majority of fans frustrated.
“That’s what’s let us down, not just this season but in seasons past. All we can do is make sure we come back in the best possible condition for the final nine games.”
This break, one of the few Reach has had in an impressive Owls career so far, could well be exactly what he has needed for a long, long time.