The Opposition: Sheffield Wednesday

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Sheffield Wednesday

 

Form

Overall:  Played 29; Won 12, Drew 11, Lost 6; For 43, Against 32; GD +11; Points 47

Last six away games:

Blackburn Rovers 2-2 Sheffield Wednesday

Cardiff City 2-2 Sheffield Wednesday

Milton Keynes Dons 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday

Middlesbrough 1-0 Sheffield Wednesday

Fulham 0-1 Sheffield Wednesday

Reading 1-1 Sheffield Wednesday

 

Short statistics

Top scorer: Fernando Forestieri – 11

Most assists: Ross Wallace – 7

Most starts: Kieran Lee – 25

Worst discipline: Sam Hutchinson – 11 yellow cards; 0 red cards

 

Season so far

Last season, Sheffield Wednesday were largely about their awkwardness. A difficult team to break down, very, very impressive from a defensive point of view but when it came to scoring goals they were amongst the worst in the division. Plenty of 0-0, 1-0 and 1-1 scorelines cropped up and supporters were left largely divided in their opinions. Excitement was required for a club whose supporters sit in one of the country’s most famous old grounds but after the relegation fight the previous season, mid-table mediocrity was a comfortable position to be Iin.

In came new owners, plenty more cash and a managerial change as Portuguse man Carlos Carvalhal replaced Stuart Gray. Changes have been evident. A workmanlike midfield has been changed to provide extra creativity and a fine record that has hauled them in the fight for the top six. Five unbeaten in the league and having added further quality in January in Gary Hooper and Jack Hunt (permanently after loan spells) and Aiden McGeady from Everton on loan, they will fancy their chances of breaking the top six.

 

Style

One thing Sheffield Wednesday are capable of is scoring goals. We know this first hand, they scored three during our trip to Hillsborough.

A side that still very much relies on a strong work ethic to get through games, they have a genuine sprinkling of quality throughout the team that supports their attacking prowess making them one of the toughest fixtures to face in the second tier.

Fernando Forestieri is the club’s top scorer and whether he plays as a number 10 or a left-winger, he has provided moments of brilliance becoming a real fans favourite amongst Wednesday fans. He joined Watford just before Diego Fabbrini and is a very similar football with his nimble feet, high confidence and will to create. Gary Hooper finally provides the goal threat they have looked for a number of years while Ross Wallace’s dead ball delivery is wicked – you might remember his free-kick goal for Preston that helped deny Blues automatic promotion on the penultimate day of the 2008/09 season.

Their moments of brilliance can be sporadic, however. There is a reliance on individual brilliance at times and their ability to produce away from home is questionable. Of Ross Wallace’s seven assists this season, only two have come away from Hillsborough. Only three of Foresteri’s 11 goals have come on Wednesday’s travels. Five of Hooper’s seven have come during home fixtures.

Quite why this is remains a mystery. They have won just three times away from home all season, beating Brentford during a game in which both sides went down to ten men. They actually conceded while playing against ten men before stealing the win in the final moments of the game. The other two victories both came by the odd goal against relegation strugglers Rotherham United and Fulham.

Their statistics in away fixtures leave much to be desired and the comparison is clear in some departments. Wednesday are amongst the lowest when it comes to dominating possession away from home while only Bristol City and MK Dons have less shots on target per game on their travels. They win far more tackles at home than away from home and nobody gives away more fouls on their travels than the Owls.

They are slow starters. While remaining fairly compact, only once have they scored in the first 15 minutes away from home. That could change given that only David Button of Brentford has been forced into more saves during this period than Tomasz Kuszczak. They get better later on in games though again, four of the 11 goals scored in the final 15 minutes of fixtures have come away from home. Another interesting statistic is that only twice have they scored from a set piece in an away fixture, they have scored from 7 at home.

 

How will they set up against Blues?

Primarily, Wednesday have set up either with a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 system. This can change slightly within games, however.

In recent weeks, there has been a change between Atdhe Nuhiu and Vincent Sasso in the side. If Nuhiu has started, it has been 4-4-2 with the Austrian partnering Hooper up top with Forestieri wide. If Sasso starts, Forestieri has played behind Hooper, Bannan in a wider role, Hutchinson in midfield and Sasso partnering Loovens in defence and the system has become more of a 4-2-3-1.

Looking through their previous away fixtures, they are clearly trying to find a formula to allow them to match their form at home. Different players, different systems, different styles. They have attacked, played very much on the back foot, changed personnel. Few options have worked.

It’s difficult to say with certainty how Wednesday will set up. Given their fine performance on Boxing Day, one that Carvarhal proudly proclaimed was their best of the season, a 4-4-2 system is likely with Nuhiu next to Hooper. It would also provide the option of going 4-3-1-2 if they are losing the central midfield battle with Forestieri dropping behind the strikers and Wallace dropping into the middle of midfield. With Aiden McGeady now available, he could start wide with Forestieri behind Hooper. Options galore.

 

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