RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Brentford

RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Brentford

Wednesday’s final six games will give the club some idea as to where improvements need to be made ahead of next season.

If we are to challenge, we need look no further than the set-ups at Norwich, Brentford, Bournemouth and Watford for pointers.

It was for this reason that I was looking forward to the visit of Brentford for a  ̶p̶r̶e̶-̶s̶e̶a̶s̶o̶n̶ ̶f̶r̶i̶e̶n̶d̶l̶y̶ ̶  pivotal game in the ‘battle for ninth’ in the Championship. I don’t think Sky Sports will be providing days of coverage for the fight between the division’s meek and mediocre.

Brentford’s rise has been an interesting one. Mark Warburton has formed a squad comprising of talented youngsters from across the divisions; names such as Tarkowski, Dean and Judge were familiar Wednesday opponents in League 1.

Jota came to prominence as the star in Eibar's unlikely promotion to the Primera

Jota came to prominence as the star in Eibar’s unlikely promotion to the Primera

A firm midfield base of Jonathan Douglas and Toumani Diagouraga has allowed on-loan Alex Pritchard and Jota Peleteiro the freedom to attack full backs with frequency, skill, and little regard for what’s going on behind them. Andre Gray has scored 16 in the League, securing largely positive results in recent games.

The last time they failed to score was in February, nine games ago.

As for Wednesday, I was hoping for a showing that would get some dissenting voices back on side. Winning against this talented bunch would be unlikely, but a good performance was essential. For Gray’s sake, I was hoping he wouldn’t try anything too drastic; recent calls that he’s ‘too defensive’ are wide of the mark and rest solely on our solid defensive record rather than his attitude.

Going gung-ho however, would likely see Pritchard and Jota have the beating of our back-four on the counter.

TEAM NEWS

With many of Gray’s men out ‘for the season’, Tuesday night would see a shuffled pack of the cards played in Saturday’s draw with Charlton.

I was surprised but also pleased to see Caolan Lavery start his fourth game in ten days, he would line up in a 4-5-1/4-3-3 alongside May and Isgrove, with Filipe Melo taking his Hillsborough bow alongside Kieran Lee and Lewis McGugan.

Importantly for Brentford, Alex Pritchard would sit out and was replaced by Stuart Dallas.

THE MATCH

Forgive me for going all 'tactics truck'

Forgive me for going all ‘tactics truck’ – this shows how Wednesday set up without possession

Wednesday lined up in a way, to Stuart Gray’s credit, that looked to nullify their quick passing game from the back and also attack their back four, as a counter-attacking front three of Isgrove, May and Lavery would look to run at Dean and Tarkowski.

Lavery and Isgrove were marking the space between their centre-half and full-back, and sprinted either player when the goalkeeper distributed it to them.

Filipe Melo had a quiet first half as he sat on Alan Judge, while McGugan and Lee pressed alongside the front three at every opportunity to try and win the ball high up the pitch.

Such a set-up was a risk, as any early Brentford goal would leave Wednesday wide open if they were to press for an equaliser.

To the Gray nay-sayers, this was neither the ‘dreaded 4-4-2’, which isn’t as stone-age as many say, and neither was it a 4-5-1, which isn’t necessarily a defensive set-up as it is often derided.

Formations are merely a set of numbers however, their practice with and without the ball characterises the nature of the attacking or defensive set-up.

I’m not sure that Brentford were expecting such a set-up from Wednesday, and so the initial minutes were played out with little in the way of clear openings developing.

Their ball retention was largely good, their passing crisp and good to watch, but their inability to get Jota or Dallas in behind their full backs limited openings. Wednesday had a much better intensity than on Saturday, and too kept the ball well.

Caolan Lavery was lively in possession while McGugan and particularly Filipe Melo were impressive in the middle of the pitch.

Wednesday’s attempts to get the ball forward were largely direct, I was largely more confident with Lavery under the ball than Stevie May. While Lavery was robust, winning a few headers against the much bigger centre-halves, May looked light-weight and was muscled off the ball frequently.

The summer break can’t come quick enough for him, truth be told.

May cut a forlorn figure up front

May cut a forlorn figure up front

Half chances fell to either side before the break. This was an absorbing game but chances were few and far between. For Wednesday, Lavery ran at Bidwell on the left before crossing to May, who seemed to throw a few limbs at it only for the ball to go wide.

Both the Wednesday full-backs were getting forward with mixed success; while Lewis Buxton sent over a couple of good crosses, Jeremy Helan would beat four before sending his attempts out of play or into the nearest blocking defender.

Brentford’s first chance fell to Gray, who latched onto to a long ball through the inside-right channel, beat Tom Lees to the ball and sent a finish low and wide; before Alan Judge found himself in the centre of the box and could only hit the cross bar as the Wednesday defence stopped for offside.

HT: WEDNESDAY 0-0 BRENTFORD

Without changes to personnel, the second half started with greater pace as both sides looked to force the first goal. Brentford were undoubtedly the more technical, and the more desperate, but this would play into Wednesday’s hands.

Judge, Jota and Gray threatened to split the Wednesday defence with a mixture of angled, flighted and drilled passes between the Wednesday back line which, if they weren’t cut off at source by the impressive Melo, were cleared by Lees (solid as ever) and Zayatte (who saw this impressive run coming?).

Helan: always a threat but what is his best position?

Helan: always a threat but what is his best position?

Jota was superb and had the beating of Helan throughout the game by cutting inside. I agree with Stuart Gray that the coaching staff need to look at moulding Helan into the good Championship player he can be – on the wing. He has neither the concentration or positioning ability to move forward at left-back. If he can improve his composure and technical ability in crossing and passing the ball, he can become a more than competent second tier winger.

Filipe Melo really grew into the game and I look forward to seeing more of him as he settles in Yorkshire. Combative, good in the tackle, well positioned, disciplined and calm: he looks a competent defender, but also showed on several occasions when it is best to hold on to the ball and when to pass. His progress is one to track.

Another deadline day arrival, Sergiu Buș came on to replace Stevie May – another largely ineffective showing from the Scot whose pace was not enough to compensate for the strength of his opponents. Buș, who looks more sturdy, would hopefully add a little presence up front.

Lloyd Isgrove and Lewis McGugan were also replaced by Maguire and Maghoma.

Maguire almost had an instant impact, he broke two-on-one with Buș to his right as Harlee Dean trod on the ball. With the opportunity to go all the way, Maguire elected to pass to Buș but Tarkowski was across in time to block the pass.

Brentford now had an opportunity of their own as Jota spotted the run of Andre Gray, lofted the ball over Zayatte only for Dean to smash the ball straight at Westwood.

Gray’s tactical plan was now somewhat forlorn as legs grew tired, both teams took turns to carry the ball forward in search of the breakthrough.

And, somewhat surprisingly, it went the way of Wednesday.

Lee scores for Wednesday

Lee scores for Wednesday

This was a well worked goal that capitalised on another Brentford mistake in possession. Lee picked up the ball in the middle of the Brentford half, moved it left to Lavery, his ball across the box was back-heeled against a defender by Buș, only for Lee to turn it home after continuing his run.

Get in!

Barring one chance for Judge, Wednesday worked the remaining fifteen minutes down very well, keeping possession well and defending tightly when necessary. Aside of that one chance, where Judge blasted over from twelve yards, Brentford failed to threaten.

Would a draw have been a fair result? Probably. Was this a good Wednesday performance? Absolutely.

FT: WEDNESDAY 1-0 BRENTFORD

A terrific result and performance to match. Wednesday came with a tactical plan that was executed well for sixty minutes, we then scored at the perfect time and defended very well throughout.

Filipe Melo was superb, the two central defenders likewise, Caolan Lavery continued his tremendous form, and Lewis McGugan again received the ovation of the Hillsborough crowd that will hopefully convince him to stay.

'Gray in', obviously.

‘Gray in’, obviously.

I was really pleased for Stuart Gray who answered the dissenting voices well after Saturday – which was by no means a disaster in itself. He showed tactical flexibility, wasn’t defensive (though, as I’ve suggested, I doubt he is anyway) and executed his plan well.

The result also meant that Wednesday equal a clean-sheet record that goes back to the days of Jack Charlton; a great achievement for the regular back-five, and again recognition that we’d be much worse off without them.

Can we better that record at Bournemouth? You’d be brave to put your money on it.

Hugh
Owls Alive
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