I normally like to write something up immediately after a game, but I really wasn’t feeling in the mood on Saturday. The weekend was bad enough with another humiliating Wednesday defeat, but I also had some health problems that have stopped me from writing as much as I would like generally. So I’ve taken a few days to reflect on Saturday before writing this piece.
It’s not surprising that there are numerous people calling for Jos Luhukay. Football fans are fickle, and we all know this. Any club that loses three on the spin is going to have fans grumbling. It’s not just the defeats but the performances as well. It’s not just the defeats and performances but the bizarre absences of many established players. The best example of our selection policy is Keiren Westwood. Fair enough, he has had some injury problems but he is the best goalkeeper I have seen at the club since the early 90’s. The man has set numerous clean sheet records for us and we all know we are in desperate need of a clean sheet. The tragic thing is, with so long out of action I doubt Westwood would be the same player now. The horse has already bolted there, I fear.
I know there is only so much you can tell from match stats and in the end, the only stats that matters are goals scored and goals conceded. I didn’t see the Birmingham game but I’ve seen us play enough to draw some conclusions. First, let's have a look at those match stats that I've included below.
So it seems to me that the game probably followed a typical pattern for SWFC. We probably had the ball for long periods in our third of the pitch, gently rolling the ball along our defence, into midfield, back into defence and so on. Birmginham had almost twice as many corners with around half the possession. This suggests that Birmingham had more effective possession. Both sides had four shots on target, yet Birmingham scored three times and we scored once. I'm sorry to say it, but I just don't have confidence in Dawson or Wildsmith. They need time in a less pressurised environment. Both 'keepers could do with a full season in league one where they are first choice and can play with less pressure and stress.
It's not just our young players that worry me at the moment. Don't get me wrong, it's fantastic we are finally seeing some younger players being given a run of games. The issue is we seem to have transplanted half our academy side into the first team in one go. These players are now playing in a side that is getting beaten on a regular basis, at a club that expected much, much more. This will not be helping their development and could be damaging their long-term prospects. This is magnified further with a complete lack of on-field leadership, something I have been banging on about for weeks now. We need a strong character in defence who can organise and drag the defence along.
This season is just about survival. Our current points-per-game haul will see us to 58 points by the end of the season, which is just about enough to finish at the bottom end of the middle-third of the table. The whole club just needs to survive this season as, come the summer, we will have a few players out of contract and we can start to rebuild. When we do have more money to spend once more, do I trust the current leadership to spend it wisely? The answer is a pretty resounding "no".
There are three general factors that affect how successful a club is; the owners/executives, the manager/coaching staff and the players. I think all three have to change for the club to move forward. I appreciate much of what Mr Chansiri has done at the club, but much of that is overshadowed by some decisions I wholeheartedly disagree with. I cannot forgive his decision to stick with Carlos after the derby defeat at home last season. Had we parted company then, and brought in an experienced Championship manager I think we could still have made a run at the top-six. In the end we brought in a manager no one had heard of, who granted kept us in the division, but now we are sliding back to results and performances akin to what we saw in Carlos' last season.
If we look at this in the most simple terms, Mr Chansiri has come in and spent tens of millions to move us backwards in the league. His ownership so far has been a failure. I believe that Mr Chansiri had good intentions and that he does genuinely want success, but I don't think he has had the right advice and I don't get the impression he is willing to admit his mistakes. There appears to be a complete lack of understanding of the culture of Sheffield and the history of Sheffield Wednesday fans.
At the end of this season we find ourselves in a position where we can cast off the shackles of some expensive contracts for players that are not contributing. This will be a huge boost for the club. To change the players and avoid the mistakes of the past, I believe we need to change the manager. I have nothing against Jos Luhukay and he comes across as a decent bloke, but I don't think this is the right fit. I think we need someone who knows the division inside out. It pains me to say it in some ways, but I would be making contact with Neil Warnock. The man knows this division and this city and I honestly believe the job would be too tempting for him to turn down. I don't think Jos Luhukay is the cause of all our problems, but the manager is generally the easiest part of the problem to solve.
Looking ahead to our next two games we have Norwich at home and then the steel-city derby away. I'm worried we could come out of those two games with zero points and should that happen, I think Jos Luhukay's position will become untenable. I would not be surprised if he decided the job wasn't worth that hassle and quit, to be honest.
One way or another this season will set the club's course for the next few years. Relegation would be a bigger disaster than our most recent two relegations to League One. Survival will see us leaner moving into next season with some scope to wheel and deal. Many clubs have shown that it is possible to be competitive in this division without spending huge sums of money. Considered investment in players as part of a wider strategy, when coupled with loans from the Premier League, can push a club up the table. A scattergun approach to building a squad ends up with an unbalanced and expensive squad. We've tried the latter and next season we need to try the former.
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Critic. Writer. Thinker. Observer. Creator of nowwelive.com.