It was all too predictable against Derby, even after we took the lead. Say what you want about missed chances and hitting the woodwork - it's only goals that count. We lack goals going forward and we concede with alarming regularity. We have conceded 32 goals in 18 matches; the worst in the division. We are on course to concede 82 goals by the end of the season (81.78 to be precise-ish). Our lack of defence is all the more apparent when you consider we have scored just 22 goals. Interestingly, Middlesbrough have scored just 21 goals in 18 games but are 2nd in the league. They do boast by far the best defensive record having conceded only 9 goals in their league campaign, which means they can afford to not score that many. For Wednesday, however, we are faced with having to score two or three times minimum, in order to win a game.
I've posted at length about how I don't think changing the manager will solve all our problems. The problems at Sheffield Wednesday run deeper than the manager. I don't think there is anything sinister happening, but rather a lack of experience and knowledge about football in England, and more specifically Sheffield and the Championship. We have a squad that is largely talented and the core of this squad was the one responsible for two play-off finishes in the last three seasons. Changing manager might not solve everything, but appointing the right man may just give us that extra 20-30% needed to climb away from a relegation scrap, because like it or not that is what we are sinking towards. Have a look at the form tables I've placed below:
In the last five matches we are bottom of the form table. One point from a possible fifteen, in a match we did not play with any attempt to win. 12 goals conceded and only 2 scored.
Even accounting for our little run of form where we won two and drew two in the previous set of five fixtures, we are still averaging less than a point per game which is nailed on relegation form.
I am now convinced that we will need a change of manager to avoid relegation but this assumes that we replace Jos Luhukay with someone better. In his time here, Mr Chansiri has appointed two managers and I would assume that almost no Sheffield Wednesday fan would have heard of either Carlos Carvalhal or Jos Luhukay prior to their appointment. We are crying out for familiarity and experience with the Championship but you can bet that if Jos is sacked, or if he walks, our next appointment will be someone equally unfamiliar.
In football it is unusual, at least at our level, for a manager to be sacked preemptively. What I mean by this is that managers are often sacked once the horse has already bolted. There are those who argue that managers need to be given time, and in some cases there is a wisdom to this. However, football fans are often bang on the money when they can see something not working. Sheffield Wednesday fans witnessed this first hand with Carlos last season. When we were beaten by Sheffield United at home 2-4, that match encapsulated everything wrong with Carvalhal's approach. He should have gone at full time, and had he been dismissed at full time I believe we would have finished much higher up the table. Instead, we appointed Jos and to be fair he instilled discipline and organisation into a team that was lacking both. With some quality players coming back from injury we picked up enough points to never really be troubled by relegation. The point is we waited too long to part company with Carlos even though many of us could see what was coming even prior to the Steel City Derby.
I get the same feeling now with Jos Luhukay. It's not working. It really is that simple. Jos is hoping that it will work though, and his strategy (at least from the outside) to go from things not working to things actually working is to do the same as he has all season. Isn't that the definition of insanity? From match to match our team line up changes, almost as though names were being drawn from a hat. Players are mysteriously missing from the starting eleven who have immense quality in this league. To use a racing example; we are not going to catch the rest of the league up by going running more slowly than they are, but that seems to be our approach.
It is clear as day to me that the Jos Luhukay experiment will not work. I would thank him for his efforts and part company now before it is too late. The question is who would replace him? Assuming that we are willing to go with tried and tested in the English league, as opposed to plucking someone from the Romanian Second Division (hands off László Balint who is doing great things with Sportul Snagov), then these are my favoured options.
1. Slaviša Jokanović
I appreciate that things did not go his way in the Premier League with Fulham but there are not many managers that can best his record in the Championship in recent seasons. He has won promotion to the Premier League with Watford and Fulham. He knows the division and knows the players. I expect he will be a man in demand and if we are not already having informal talks with him, then I will be disappointed. He should be our number one priority.
2. Paul Heckingbottom
Paul Heckingbottom did an incredible job with Barnsley with limited resources. He knows the club, the area and the division. I think it was a huge mistake leaving for the Leeds job, which is arguably the most difficult job to keep in English football. Not as high profile a name as Jokanović but I suspect he would do a good enough job to stabilise The Owls and help nurture our younger players.
3. Steve Bruce & 4. David Moyes
It's at this point that things get a bit more speculative, in my opinion. Steve Bruce has had a fairly impressive career to date and there are few managers with as much experience of the Premier League and Championship as him. He was hardly a raging success at Aston Villa but I suspect there were things beyond his control happening there. David Moyes' stock has plummeted since he was appointed Manchester United manager and he may struggle to find another Premier League role in the near future. It might be wise for him to take a step back and rebuild his reputation in the Championship. Another factor which potentially sets these two options apart is money; I think it unlikely that we could afford Moyes' wages and I suspect we could not give Bruce enough money to spend for him to be tempted to take the job.
The next three games for Wednesday will give us a much clearer picture of whether we are just having an extended blip or whether we are really in serious trouble. On Tuesday we face Bolton at home, before travelling to Blackburn next Saturday. The following Saturday we host Rotherham. Two home games against teams around us in the table. These are both six-pointers. I suspect that we will fail to win both games. We are only three points above the relegation places and there is a very real danger we could go into the first week of December already in the bottom three.
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Critic. Writer. Thinker. Observer. Creator of nowwelive.com.