BLOG | “It’s still twenty pounds” – early season review

BLOG | “It’s still twenty pounds” – early season review

Eleven games in, sixteen points accrued.

Wednesday sit in roughly the same position as they have in each of the previous two campaigns.

Something has changed, however.

The gushing positivity that rode the ‘Carlos had a dream’ wave of 2015 has slowly been replaced with mutterings of skepticism and, frankly, totally unnecessary online abuse.

Wednesday are, all things considered, in an excellent position.

With that in mind, we’ve decided to review the season so far.

The Owls Alive masterminds have delivered their own miniature blogs, each focusing on their own specialist subject.

Don’t expect us to do well in the general knowledge round, however.

 

‘Cherish the madness of Carlos’ – Angela

 

Do you remember where you were when you first googled ‘Carlos Carvalhal’?

Back in June 2015 fans and football journalists broke the internet trying to find out more about the man Dejphon Chansiri had just announced as Wednesday’s new Head Coach.

Fourteen clubs in as many years. Out to pasture for the previous three.

At first sight, the appointment looked a little left field, to say the least.

What could this ‘friend of Mourinho’ do for the team that only just survived relegation on the last day of the season in 2012/13, finished 16th in 2013/14 and ended 2014/15 in the heady heights of 13th place – eighteen points shy of the play-offs?

Quite a lot, as it turns out.

Their working partnership has transformed Wednesday

To a point where in season three he is becoming a victim of expectations that would have seemed like wild imaginings just a couple of years ago.

Just last week, under pressure following two straight defeats, he says he “understands the fast food society of today”.

One small phrase that elegantly sums up the demand for instant gratification, or in this case automatic promotion. Now.

The strains of ‘Carlos Had a Dream’ are heard less frequently; some of our fans applauded when the Blades struck up with ‘sacked in the morning’ during the derby.

How does CC cope with the physical and psychological strains of being at the centre of a tug of war between the happy clappers and the miserablists?

His press conferences give some insights into the man who holds the dressing room.

Carlos comes across as charming, authentic, and ever so slightly bonkers.

He reads. And ideas from his latest book fly straight out of his head into the microphone.

Who can forget his reviews of ‘Lobsters’ or, ‘Open a Café next to a Café’ and those self-help manuals on behavioural problems in children?

Carlos’ press meetings are an occasion (Image: Angela)

More recently he’s either been reading about currency exchange or amateur dramatics. Maybe both.

He reads history. Not just the history of the club, but of South Yorkshire. He talks about a shared collective struggle, hard times and how to rise again.

These things pepper his conversation, breaking up the regulation management-speak, injury news and thoughts on the next opponents to allow glimpses of a humanity that is sadly lacking in boardrooms and on terraces across the game.

We know all good things must come to an end.

But let’s be careful what we wish for. Whatever else happens, life with Carlos will never be dull.

And after the drudgery of our wilderness years, surely that is something to be very clappy about.

Angela
@ABGalvin

 

‘Time for a change…of formation?’ – Chris

 

This time last Friday it seemed inevitable that Carlos wouldn’t survive and we’d be speculating about his replacement, but instead, the mood is suddenly lifted.

Perhaps the most pleasing – and needed – element of the win over Leeds was the clean sheet.

But as good as that win was I am still left with a niggling worry about the defence, which has looked far from solid since van Aken’s arrival.

He is clearly a quality footballer and I’m confident he will settle into English football eventually, but his arrival has exposed Tom Lees’ lack of leadership and left us looking more vulnerable defensively than we have at any point since Carlos took over.

Learning to do

The solution, to me, seems simple: move to a three at the back.

It seems the perfect way to remedy a multitude of problems. Firstly, it would allow Loovens to return to the team and offer what he does best – experience and leadership.

I’m not convinced he has it in him to perform week in week out in a back two now but sharing the responsibility with two partners would suit him down to the ground.

Loovens in the centre would allow Lees and van Aken to carry the ball out either side of him; Lees gets his experienced captain at his side, van Aken gets a compatriot who will teach him a great deal about the game.

Meanwhile we have two completely natural wing-backs in Hunt and Reach who wouldn’t have to amend their play too much to fit into the new system, but would both be able to focus more on attacking, which is where both of them are stronger.

This also goes for Palmer and Fox as the back-up options.

Furthermore, this means a midfield three of Lee, Bannan and Hutchinson/Jones in a system that would allow them to play centrally, in their most effective positions. Hutch/Jones could sit and Bannan and Lee could attack from either side.

Loovens: a much needed stabiliser (Image: Star)

Wallace would be the casualty of this system but he can still play a role off the bench, and as formations shift to see out games he is a great asset to bring on.

The beauty of this formation is the ability to move from 3-5-2 to 5-3-2 and even 3-3-4 depending on the game situation, simply by pushing the wing-backs up or down the pitch.

We were shown how effective it can be by our neighbours the other week, and we have the players to do it ourselves.

I’m sure Carlos would say that we don’t stick to a rigid formation and his full backs move to change the game already, which is true to an extent but it usually only happens within a framework of 4-4-2.

I hope that Carlos will spend the fortnight’s break working on something different to keep the momentum going, and I’d love to see us bring the best out of Van Aaken’s immense talent while regaining our defensive solidity.

3-5-2 could be the answer.

Chris
@chris_shelley

 

‘Super Hooper’ – Beastie

 

I love a good striker I do… and a bad or mediocre striker for that matter! We all do.

Sheffield Wednesday have been desperate to hang our hats and our hearts on a proper striker for a very long time…even Stevie MacLean, the last 20 goal a season striker for us was not up there with the greats of Brighty and Hirsty.

And YES, I demand more than just goal-getting from my strikers, and, in some cases, not even goal getting.

It’s no secret my love for Clinton and big Stevie Aaard… any footy fan that doesn’t like a big man up front is lying to themselves.

Steve Aaard lashing home against Boro in 2013

We’ve moved on though since those hard days and despite our own fans telling everyone THESE are hard times, most of them can’t have been at Stevenage or Exeter or choose to ignore the genuinely hard times this club has had and for my money we find ourselves in a golden era and on threshold of a… errm… VERY golden era…

We will have our new hero to thank for that.

Step forward Gary Hooper.

In this man, this glorious, wonderful man, we have the potential to reach our true potential and he is EXACTLY what has been missing from our lives, for some of us since those glory days of the early 90s.

The Wednesday fans have been desperate for a true striker, a real footballer and proper hero in every sense of the word, someone we can hang our hats on and get behind knowing he is going to deliver in more ways than one.

This isn’t just a bloke who knocks in goals, who scores from the pelanty spot, who gets a tap in from the hard work of others and takes the credit, no!

This is the player that creates his own tap ins.

“Anyone seen my fruit bag?” – Beastie

This is the player that does his own hard work and continues with play to finish the move off.

Remember those players like JJ that we idolised before? Players that did a pass and then sat down on the pitch because that was their shift over, remember them?

Gary Hooper isn’t that player.

He may not have the physique of some of those gym donkeys or the speed of those racing snakes but what he does have – yet another thing that we’ve missed for so long-  is a football brain and the nous to know and understand the game around him.

Celebrating another of his goals

He is aware of his teammates and where they are, he makes use of space and the naivety and lack of knowledge of opposition defences. Whilst his body may not be up to competing with pacey defenders his brain is and he’s already ahead of them before they think about using whatever pace they have.

His frame may not be at its peak but he uses it to its best and his strength is incredible, in holding onto the ball, in holding off players, in keeping control of the situation.

Watch him when he picks the ball up at the halfway line: this isn’t a player who will get his head down and run blindly up a one way street – even if he could – this is a player that has already checked where his teammates are BEFORE he got the ball and CHECKS AGAIN when he gets the ball.

When they try to take it from him he will roll, he will turn, he will twist and he will use every skill and every piece of strength he has to keep that ball and pass it on to a player in blue and white and what’s more, he won’t sit back admiring his handiwork, he’s on the move again because he wants to finish that move off.

He usually does just that.

We have more than just a striker here… more than just a talisman and hero… we have the perfect footballer, albeit past his prime and whilst we have a cracking team around him who deserve plaudits too.

I’m sure he would acknowledge the support around him, especially from fellow striker Steven Fletcher.

Gary Hooper is the man to take this football club forward, to where we all want to be.

Hoops is the man to get behind, the man to fulfill all of our dreams and lofty ambitions.

Capable of the extraordinary

Give him hospitality box if he wants one.

Give him a pay rise if that’s what he wants.

Give him the keys to Hillsborough if that’s what he desires but more than that… give him your praise, your adulation and above all, give him your hearts.

So many have come and gone before him and taken with them our hopes and dreams but that is changing…now we have Hoops and he’s all ours and ya know what?

I just can’t get enough… I just can’t get enough…

Steve
@Beastie_

 

‘Bright future between the sticks’ – Hugh

 

As an indicator of Wednesday’s position within the football pyramid during the past twenty years, the club’s most recognisable players have often been goalkeepers.

Pressman – the Premiership cult hero; Grant – the bright youngster who re-booted his career; Weaver and Bywater – the mad hatters whose connection with the fans married beautifully with their on-field contribution.

Kirkland stood out in a mediocre Championship side, and then came Westwood: amongst the best in his division for three seasons.

And while there are fleet-flooted ball masters throughout this side, the trend can and will continue with bright sparks Carmeon Dawson and Joe Wildsmith.

Dawson taking control against Derby (Image: The Star)

To make a pleasant change, the club has handled their development properly.

Introduced slowly to the first team, both still have less than thirty full appearances between them.

Helpful loans in non-league and then the lower divisions gave the pair a taste. Training alongside full internationals for four years – under the coaching of the inimitable Andy Rhodes – will have provided an education.

Both have stood out in their appearances for Wednesday’s first team. Dawson was given a little run last season, which included clean-sheet victories.

Wildsmith has enjoyed greater involvement, perhaps due to his excellent distribution: his performances against Newcastle and Arsenal in 2015 were excellent. He also made nine league starts that season and could have made more.

JW: on top form against Leeds

The two goalkeepers are excellent shot-stoppers: quick off their line, strong on both sides, athletic movers.

Dawson is a commander and will marshal any back line, no matter their experience.

Wildsmith, as we saw against Leeds, brings a new dimension to this Wednesday side with consistently excellent and well-thought out distribution.

Westwood is #1 and will be for a while, but Wildsmith has done no harm with two eye-catching performances against Birmingham and Leeds.

With the Irishman underperforming at present: could Carlos be tempted to throw one of the two understudies in?

Perhaps not.

The future is in safe hands.

Hugh
@hugh_wragg

 

‘Welcome back Kieran Lee’ – Matt

 

What a relief it is to have this man back in the team.

The whole side looks much more settled with Lee in it.

In terms of technical ability, I’m not sure Lee even makes the top ten or fifteen central midfielders in the league, but he’d probably be up there for those a manager would love to have.

Having missed the first few games through injury, Lee made his return against Forest and the Owls immediately returned to winning ways.

Welcome back Kieran Lee

Without Lee, Wednesday played very much with a flat 4-4-2, with Bannan alongside Hutchinson or Jones.

With him, the formation becomes much more dynamic. Bannan moves out to the left, allowing Reach to play left back.

This allows Bannan to tuck inside and Reach to bomb on.

Bannan tucking inside means Lee himself can make his surging runs forward through the middle, complemented by Hooper’s ability to drop deeper, and you end up with a very fluid system.

The players cover areas of the pitch much less rigidly, to great effect. It’s all key to us playing our best football, such as against Forest and Leeds.

Lee has a great tendency to pop up and score when needed, the Lampard-esque runs into the box becoming more and more fruitful.

Lynchpin

The majority of his goals have been perfectly timed arrivals followed by classy finishes. His disallowed effort against Leeds – chalked off incorrectly, encapsualtes everything I’ve talked about here: the fluid system, the importance of Bannan, Reach and Hooper; the late arrival of Lee.

The goal against Leeds that actually stood was something special, which I really didn’t think he had in his locker, but what a belter!

Nobody better encapsulates everything football fans love than Kieran Lee.

The endless runs, knack for scoring from midfield and ability to just keep things simple under pressure are all amazing qualities. We’re lucky to have him back.

Matt
@MattRFez

Owls Alive
E-MAIL: owlsalive@gmail.com
Twitter: @OwlsAlive 

Images: SWFC, unless stated


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *