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A dozen points down but certainly not out – Interview
Thursday, 1st Oct 2020 13:50 by Clive Whittingham

Our regular Sheff Wed correspondent Jon Hore hasn’t given up hope of the Owls escaping the drop in 2020/21 despite starting the season with a 12-point FFP deduction.

How was last season?

A promising start ended abruptly at Christmas and things went off a cliff from there, finishing in a horrible mess of Covid, goals conceded, endless defeats, EFL incompetence and a points deduction.

Is the 12 points fatal?

I wouldn’t say the 12 points is definitely fatal because there’s nothing about this league which says we shouldn’t be able to get to 60 points and give ourselves a chance. There’s still a lot of poor teams around who we’ll just need to be a bit more consistent than. It’s going to take a big turnaround in results and attitude from the second half of last season but I think by the end we’d reached rock bottom so the only way is up.

League results so far…
Cardiff 0-2 Sheff Wed Windass 4, Rhodes 44
Sheff Wed 0-0 Watford
Bristol City 2-0 Sheff Wed Rowe 59, Paterson 90

Opinion on Garry Monk?

I’m not Monk’s biggest fan so I’m hoping rather than expecting him to turn it around, and I’d say most of the fan base share this view. It’s a massive task but he deserves to be given a chance with his squad and the change in ‘mentality’ that he constantly bangs on about. The experience of working under a points deduction with Birmingham should be useful. He’s brought his own coaching team in now as well, so hopefully James Beattie can work a miracle and reverse Rhodes’ transformation from Championship goalscorer to the Tin Man.

Summer business concluded…

The most eye-catching signing is probably Izzy Brown who will take some of the creative workload off Bannan, and Chey Dunkley should add some steel and leadership at the back. We’ve brought in Josh Windass from Wigan for a small fee and Elias Kachunga on a free after he was released by Huddersfield. Both add much needed options in forward areas but we’ve been absolutely desperate for another striker after Forestieri, Fletcher, Nuhiu and Winnall all left in the summer and Cardiff’s Callum Paterson joined this week to add much needed physical presence up top.

We’ve been linked to Kenneth Zohore with rumours of both a permanent and a loan depending on who you listen to. Given our finances, the current financial blackhole in football, and the likely fee involved I think a permanent deal would be both very unlikely and pretty irresponsible from the clubs point of view. I think a loan is much more likely but again that’s one that’s been dragging on for ages now and I doubt it will happen. The other name being talked about is Wolves full back Dion Sanderson who was on loan at Cardiff last year and only has a year left on his contract. I’ve heard good things from that spell and given his age and potential I think that could be a really smart bit of business if it happened.

Ins >>> Josh Windass, 26, AM, Wigan, £500k >>> Callum Paterson, 25, CF, Cardiff, £495k >>> Fisayo Dele-Bashiru, 19, AM, Man City, Undisclosed >>> Chey Dunkley, 28, CB, Wigan, Free >>> Elias Kachunga, 28, CF, Huddersfield, Free >>> Korede Adedoyin, 19, RW, Everton, Free >>> Fisayo Dele-Bashiru, 19, CM, Man City, Undisclosed >>> Izzy Brown, 23, AM, Chelsea, Loan

Outs >>> Connor Kirby, 21, DM, Harrogate, Free >>> Morgan Fox, 26, LB, Stoke, Free >>> Steven Fletcher, 33, CF, Stoke, Free >>> Fraser Preston, 22, RW, Boston, Free>>> Sam Hutchinson, 30, DM, Pafos (Cyprus), Free >>> Sam Winnall, 29, CF, Oxford, Free >>> Fernando Forestieri, 30, CF, Udinese >>> Atdhe Nuhiu, 31, CF, Nicosia, Free >>> Jack Stobbs, 23, CF, Released

How have you started the season?
It’s been a mixed start with a great win at Cardiff followed by a home draw against Watford and then a defeat at Bristol City in a tight game last weekend. The biggest difference in those three games compared to the second half of last season is that we’ve looked a million times better defensively. The press from the front has been effective, the defensive shape much improved and we’ve given up very few chances across the three games so far.

The squad has been refreshed and pretty much all the Carvalhal generation that had been hanging around since our playoff runs have now left. There’s been a shift towards signing the right sort of ‘characters’ and the early signs are positive as there does seem to be a real focus and spirit and togetherness in the group. The Watford game when we came under pressure in the second half was one we’d definitely have crumbled in last season.

Monk is firmly committed to the 3-5-2 system that he introduced towards the end of last season. This suits the squad in some ways but not in others – we’ve got a lot of centre backs and it’s enabled us to play Luongo, Bannan and Izzy Brown in a really well balanced midfield three. However, we’re lacking attacking end product from the wing backs and only have a washed-up Jordan Rhodes and a couple of winger/striker hybrids in Windass and Kachunga as our forward options. That’s an area that must be addressed before the window closes because we’ve not scored in the last 2 and a half league games, and in 4 of our 6 games overall including the league cup. Overall I’d say there’s definitely more positive signs in terms of attitude and commitment and some reasons to be optimistic, but the transfer activity in the next few days could well make or break our season.

Stand out players and weak links so far?

Our best player so far has probably been Luongo - he’s been playing in a ball-winning role at the base of the midfield three and been excellent in every game. The extended break has definitely helped in giving him time to get properly fit. Dom Iorfa is growing into a really good centre back and Tom Lees is looking back to something like his best. As mentioned earlier the weakness in the team are at wing back and up front. I wouldn’t say he’s been particularly bad but for the amount of the ball he gets we really need more going forward from Kadeem Harris. He’s been playing left wing back and while his energy is often important in getting us up the pitch he but just isn’t creating anything in the attacking third. The strikers haven’t actually played badly either, Windass in particular has looked sharp, but we really need a physical presence up there to be the focal point of the attack because all three of them will be much better playing off a target man.

How will you do?

It’s going to be tough and I’m definitely not expecting it to be pretty. We won’t be a free-scoring team so defensively we need to somehow revert to the form of the first half of last season. We’ve got good enough players to do that, and if we can then we’ve got a strong chance of getting to 60ish points and giving ourselves a shot of staying up.

It feels like the game on Saturday is absolutely massive for us and one we really need to win, so hopefully you’ll be as horrendous as you were at Loftus Road in July. It’s obvious but we’re in a position where we just need to start sticking points on the board, we can’t afford to have encouraging performances and not win games. Psychologically it feels important to get back to zero as soon as possible to maintain that belief and positive vibe around the team. If we don’t get a win and end up with four or five points from the first four games that will be disappointing return given the improvement in performances. I’m still cautiously optimistic about our chances of surviving but the black and white facts are that we’ve only won five out of our last 25 league games and that needs to turn around now if we’re going to have any chance. We’re looking more solid, we’ll compete in games and I don’t think this group will ever just turn it in but we’ve got the whiff of a team that will draw loads of games unless we can find that extra bit of something going forward.The Paterson deal was crucial, and hopefully another striker as well. If we can do that, and keep our midfield three fit, I think we’ve got a decent chance of doing enough to survive.

Links >>> Sheff Wed Official Website >>> Sheffield Star – Local Paper >>> London Owls – Blog >>> Owls Talk – Message Board

The Twitter @loftforwords, @j_ho9

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TacticalR added 13:45 - Oct 3
Thanks to Jon.

I am glad to hear things have worked out for Luongo at Sheffield Wednesday. Ball-winning is his strength. Maybe he just needed exactly the right role and the right players around him in midfield.

I see 'Washed-up' Jordan Rhodes is still scoring goals, just not at the rate he used to in his heyday.

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