Season preview: Can Wednesday challenge the top six?

Season preview: Can Wednesday challenge the top six?

After the most eventful and exciting summer break at Hillsborough in well over a decade, we are now all excitedly counting down the days to the first game of the new season.

It has been an eventful off-season at S6 to say the least, full of changes and ins and outs. It’s been a case of out with the old and in with the new; with, by and large, positive changes that have increased the quality at the club:

OUT

IN

  • 11 (first team) players – Kirkland, Maguire, Mattock, Buxton, Madine, Coke, Corry, McCabe, Maghoma, Zayatte, Kelhar.
  • Nine players – Lachman, Sasso, Hunt, Matias, Price, Wallace, López, McGugan, Lucas João.
  • Head coach – Stuart Gray
  • Head coach Carlos Carvalhal and ‘football committee’ – Glenn Roeder, Paul Senior and Jonathan Hill
  • Ancient scoreboard, with all its quirky features and regular breakdowns
  • New scoreboard – the ‘biggest in Football League’
  • Flood-ruined Blackpool beach of a pitch
  • High quality ‘Desso’ pitch
  • Reasonably priced tickets
  • Outrageous new matchday prices starting at £39 on the gate for Bristol City (£5 advance discounts on all adult tickets for members)

 

PLAYERS

Over the summer we have seen a huge and necessary turnover of playing staff. It was time to be ruthless, which meant loyal, long-serving players like Lewis Buxton not being offered a new contract by Stuart Gray.

José Semedo - how important is he to SWFC?

José Semedo – how important is he to SWFC?

The key members of the squad such as Glenn Loovens, Kieren Lee and Jose Semedo all re-signed, with Chrises Kirkland and Maguire turning down new deals and moving on to pastures new.

One piece of brilliant news that came out of Hillsborough this week was that Tom Lees has signed a new deal, committing his long-term future to the club until 2019.

It is great to see that we are now looking to tie down our better players when in the past we have been forced to sell. We all now hope Keiren Westwood will quickly follow Lees’ lead and commit himself to Wednesday.

The players that we moved on have been replaced by what look like higher quality players:

Kamil Zayatte and Dejan Kelhar were replaced by Darryl Lachman and Vincent Sasso, who both come to England with positive reputations.

Buxton has moved on to Rotherham and we have brought in the exciting Jack Hunt to replace him, a player who has proved himself at several Championship clubs.

The woeful Jacques Maghoma and arrogant Chris Maguire have been upgraded for Marco Matias and Ross Wallace, who have both impressed during pre-season.

Matias comes over with high expectations and Wallace has been around the block and comes with essential experience at both Championship level and above.

Matias and Wallace - quality in wide areas

Matias and Wallace – quality in wide areas

Giles Coke, Paul Corry and Rhys McCabe have all left after failing to show any consistency. Swapping Coke for Lewis McGugan is the stuff Wednesdayites could only have dreamed of years ago and we have also brought in Álex López from Celta Vigo, a player who could have the technical ability to be an ideal partner for McGugan.

Swapping Chris Kirkland for Lewis Price is a downgrade but in all honesty Kirkland was far too good to be sitting on the bench. We can hold no grudges for his decision to look after himself and look for first team football – the only shock being that he hasn’t been snapped up by a Championship club. Price should prove an adequate deputy to Westwood.

Getting rid of Gary Madine has finally been achieved – better late than never – and we can draw a line under the negative press that he so often brought to the club.

Madine’s Wednesday career – a missed opportunity?

So far we have only brought in Lucas João up top but he comes with lots of promise (especially if the rumoured price we paid is to be believed!) and is a strong and pacey forward. He was called up to the Portuguese first team in March but hasn’t made his debut yet.

Joe Mattock left (as well as youngster Rafael Floro) and although this was the correct decision, it means that as things stand we currently only have Jérémy Hélan as a recognisable left back (don’t even mention Claude Dielna).

Last week it was said we were on the verge of signing Rhoys Wiggins from Charlton but all has gone quiet on that front.  Left back is one of the areas that Wednesdayites are all hoping will be addressed before we meet Bristol City on Saturday.

Our summer recruitment certainly looks to have raised the standards of our first-team squad and with almost a whole month remaining of the transfer window you would hope to see a handful more additions so that we have at least replaced the players that we moved on.

Anybody that watched Wednesday last season could tell you what we were missing…

Talking of missed opportunities...

Talking of missed opportunities…

Goals.

While we didn’t create the most chances, we did let plenty go begging and our strikers could easily have had another 10 between them if they’d taken those missed opportunities.

How many times did we see Stevie May attempt to go round the ‘keeper then hit the post or roll it wide?

How many times did Atdhe Nuhiu put unchallenged headers wide or straight over when it was easier to score?

It seems strange then that this issue hasn’t been fully addressed over the summer. If Dejphon Chansiri is serious about challenging at the top end to the Championship, we all know our current strike force isn’t good enough.

Stevie May – he didn’t get the service? He did. He probably failed to take more chances than Nuhiu but people didn’t get on his back as much. His confidence just fell lower and lower as he continued to miss chances.

We know he’s got the potential so let’s hope he has a brighter start to the season and takes his chances. We now have the resources to replace players if they aren’t meeting expectations.

Sergiu Bus – Bus was unlucky with injury last season but can anybody really say he looked better than the strikers we already had? I don’t think so. His effort and commitment cannot be faulted but he looked too lightweight to me and I certainly don’t think he’s the answer.

Caolan Lavery – I’m a big fan of Lavery and would love to see him getting a chance up top rather than out on the wing but I can’t see that happening this season with Carvalhal’s style of play.

Can Caolan be the answer?

Can Caolan be the answer?

I hope Lavery manages to avoid injury this season and really kick on or his time here could be running out.

Atdhe Nuhiu – He divides opinion, we all know that. The fact remains he was our top goal scorer last season with 11 goals in all competitions.

Imagine how many he could have had if he hadn’t wasted his chances.

This will be a big season for Atdhe and I’m pleased to see he’s been given the number 9 shirt again.

With the passing-style of play that we’ll look to utilise this season it should suit the big man to a T, we all know he’s better with the ball at his feet and does have a remarkably good touch.

He can hold up play and bring others in to the game, players of higher quality who will hopefully be able to take their chances this season. Judging from his form in pre-season he looks to have improved his heading ability and should be full of confidence heading into the opening match after notching another two goals against St Mirren.

Whether people like it or not, Atdhe is currently our best hope as we don’t know enough about Lucas João. What we need is everybody to get behind him and support him – not get on his back. If he keeps missing chances he’ll be taken out the team, simple. Until that happens roar him on.

I’m tipping him to have his best season at Hillsborough to date.

Ideally we would all like to see a new, marquee signing brought in before the opening day and if that isn’t to happen then we certainly need to add another striker to our ranks before the end of the transfer window.

Modou Sougou - the next "in the door" and "over the line?"

Modou Sougou – the next “in the door” and “over the line?”

 

MANAGER

On Thursday, June 11th, seemingly out of the blue, Stuart Gray was sacked as head coach. This came as a huge shock and personally I was disgusted in the decision.

Gray had done a remarkable job with very little resources and was a huge hit with the players who couldn’t speak highly enough of him. Ok – our football hadn’t been the most exciting to put it politely BUT we had equalled a club record in clean sheets and there was obviously a fantastic team spirit in the dressing room.

The timing of it – over a month after the end of the season and after allowing Gray to choose which players to release and offer new contracts too – all seemed wrong. Kieran Lee had signed a new deal only a week earlier and had made it clear that Stuart Gray was a key reason in him wanting to remain at the club.

Stuart Gray - we'll never know how far he could have taken Wednesday

Stuart Gray – we’ll never know how far he could have taken Wednesday

Since then Chris Maguire has come out and although his comments have wound many fans up, he expressed a view which I’m sure many of the players shared in that Stuart Gray was unjustly sacked and the players were left wondering where they were.

Thinking positively though we might have ended up still having Maguire if Gray hadn’t been sacked, so you know, every cloud.

With Gray being sacked we were all left assuming that a replacement must already be lined up however it took until Tuesday 30th June (and a late night official announcement) for Carlos Carvalhal to finally be named as new head coach.

Since originally having huge doubts about his appointment I have warmed to him. He clearly knows his stuff and wants to play, attacking, passing and attractive football. He talks a lot of sense in his interviews, despite the fact he insists on referring to the supporters as ‘the massive’ in almost every sentence!

However, I cannot see him lasting the season. As things stand our squad isn’t good enough to be challenging for promotion and that is clearly what Chansiri expects. Teams such as Middlesbrough, Brentford, Ipswich, Wolves & Derby will be competing towards the top end of the league again and throw the relegated sides QPR, Hull and Burnley into the mix, as well as couple of surprise packages, I see us struggling to break into the top six.

A tricky start for Carlos?

A tricky start for Carlos?

How long will Chansiri give Coach Carlos if we get off to a rocky start? The old cliché that there are no easy games in the Championship is certainly true of our first month of the season as we take on:

Newly promoted Bristol City (H)

Ipswich (A)

Reading (H)

Leeds (A)

Middlesbrough (H)

The squad has to gel after such a big change and (St Mirren aside) we haven’t had the most convincing pre-season. How patient will Chansiri be if we don’t start well and Carvalhal starts talking about ‘transition periods’? If we aren’t in or just outside the playoffs come Christmas then I think we’ll be saying adeus to Carlos.

We have a new top quality pitch. Ok, but that will be beneficial to other teams too. Good footballing teams such as Derby and Middlesbrough could tear us apart if we aren’t playing to the required standards.

Any mistakes will become more obvious as the ball fails to get stuck in the mud and we’ve seen before how players can quickly cower in front of the Hillsborough crowd when things aren’t going as planned.

Judging on the current squad I would see us breaking into the top ten at the end of the season as a genuine achievement. You can’t buy success instantly and Mr Chansiri could be in for a bit of a rollercoaster journey as he learns more about English football.

None of us know what this season holds in store for us and if you’re one of those that thinks we’re going to be competing at the top of the division then brilliant, I hope you’re right.

One thing is for sure – we’re in for an interesting season and it should be much more exciting than last season – who knows we might see more than 16 league goals at Hillsborough.

Let’s stick together as a fan base and give all our support to the team and coaching staff (whoever they are over the season), let’s show that the saying “We’re All Wednesday Aren’t We?” actually means something positive.

Up the Owls!

Charlie
Owls Alive
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TWITTER: @OwlsAlive and @THEsharpey


One Comment

  1. All the championship teams mentioned have been built on good aquisitions, not star names, lets hope Wednesday have done the same – Up the Owls

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