Who will get Sheffield Wednesday's goals and being hard to beat: SIX things we picked up from draw with Leicester

Pre-season friendlies don’t matter. Well they do, but no one's going to lose any sleep if things go wrong at this stage.

By Chris Holt
Monday, 31st August 2020, 11:22 am

On the flip side of the coin, there should be no one dusting off the ribbons or chucking wads at the bookies off the back of a good performance.

On Saturday, by the plush surroundings of Loughborough University, Sheffield Wednesday found themselves somewhere in the middle anyway, negating the feelings of despair nor unbridled joy.

Garry Monk’s side turned out a decent display in drawing 0-0 with Leicester City against the backdrop of a university campus. No gold stars; no need to stay behind. There’s definitely plenty of revision needed before sitting down to the real examination in a couple of week’s time, however.

Sheffield Wednesday's Tom Lees gets to grips with Jamie Vardy in Saturday's pre-season friendly against Leicester City. SWFC/Steve Ellis

This weekend they’ve another test, but this one doesn’t matter quite so much this year. It might be a tad embarrassing if they were to be knocked out of the Carabou Cup at the first stage to Walsall but with a 12-point deficit to contend with in the Championship this season, there are much more pressing matters to concern Wednesday.

Chief among them is where on earth they are going to get goals from.

VERY, VERY light up front

Wednesday began the match with Jordan Rhodes as the lone striker, with new boy Izzy Brown (more on him later) and Adam Reach playing in behind him. It would be unfair to single the striker out as being one of the poorer performers on the day, given the circumstances. In 2020, and before Saturday, he’d played just shy of 400 minutes of football. Even in this weird year, that’s not an awful lot. He played for an hour against the Foxes and to be quite frank the only two things that stand out from his showing was making a hash of clearing the ball while at the front post for two Leicester corners.

Jordan Rhodes in action for Sheffield Wednesday against Leicester City on Saturday. SWFC/Steve Ellis

Everyone wants Rhodes to succeed. It’s been that way since Wednesday forked out a stupid amount of money to bring him to a team into which he doesn’t fit very well. But if Monk is to play the shape he did on Saturday then the 30 year-old is not the man for him. You would suspect the idea is for the ball to go into the forward’s feet and allow – in this instance – Brown and Reach to break forward into the box. Or, they peel away onto the flanks to provide space when the crosses come in. Neither of those things really worked out.

There’s no use crying over spilt milk, but this formation appears made for Steven Fletcher, not Jordan Rhodes. If there’s another player like Fletcher around somewhere (preferably tens of thousands of pounds a week cheaper), then get him in, quick.

Izzy good? Yes, he is

You have our word that’s the last time we use that pun (maybe). The new boy Izzy Brown was a stand-out performer in the 45 minutes in which he played and his signing appears to be quite a coup if he is to put on a showing like this on a consistent basis. His passing was sharp, his dead ball delivery was excellent, he’s full of running and there was something in there that fans love and has been missing from Wednesday… S***housery. There were a few signs of a little bit of naughtiness, the odd cheeky foul here and there and ruffling of the opposition when it was warranted. Wednesday need that this year. Brown looks like he can combine class with a wee bit of aggro. This team has been too soft for too long and with so much against them this coming season, they need a little devilment.

Sheffield Wednesday's new captain Barry Bannan in action against Leicester City. SWFC/Steve Ellis

Hard to beat, hard to beat

To go off track a little bit, this week pop-culture outlet Vice ran an article in which they ran down the Top 50 of what’s apparently called ‘Landfill Indie’ by music snobs – some great songs in a pretty average era which was propped up by Arctic Monkeys. Weirdly missing from that were Hard-Fi, whose biggest hit was Hard to Beat which seemed to fit right into this sneering of stuff you liked as kids, or your kids liked...or their kids. Anyway, to get back to a very tenuous link, Wednesday were hard to beat and that, it would appear is what Monk is hoping to achieve this season.

In terms of shape and tactical discipline, Wednesday were impressive. They proved difficult to break down for the most part – certainly in the first half when they were close to their strongest line-up – and gave Leicester very little to work with. It made for an unentertaining spectacle at times but Wednesday fans might have to get used to that and like it. On, admittedly, a small amount of evidence, it could be that the Owls aren’t going to be the most exciting team to watch this season. They were, however, quite dangerous with set-pieces so don’t be surprised of there’s a lot of 1-0 wins with the goal coming via a corner. To be fair, you’d be delighted with that.

Aken back in

We don’t know what Monk’s plans are for Joost Van Aken – there’s a fair chance if someone comes in for him he’ll be on his way – but if Saturday was giving the Dutchman a chance to win a place in the team then he didn’t do too badly at all. Van Aken was arguably the most accomplished of all the central defenders given a run out and was also a bit of a handul from set-pieces too. He’s maybe worth another look you know, even if his mere presence in a Wednesday shirt brings back memories to make you shudder.

Keeping faith

So who’s it to be? Cameron Dawson or Joe Wildsmith? Garry Monk has a big call on his hands because really there’s nothing between the two of them in terms of quality. They each made a good stop on Saturday, Dawson denying Jamie Vardy in the first half and Wildsmith sticking out a leg to thwart Demarai Gray after the break. It may even come down to a flip of a coin as to who’s going to be number one this coming season.

Captain Bannan

Barry Bannan is Sheffield Wednesday's new captain. It’s not a big surprise but it’s an interesting change nonetheless. Garry Monk says he’s using it as a way of ‘challenging’ Bannan to step up a level in terms of performance and responsibility. The biggest thing that could come out of it is Lees potentially being able to concentrate on his own game and worry less about leading the team. If that gets the defender back to his old form then it’s a change worth making.

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