Sheffield Wednesday v West Brom: Inside track on the Owls
West Brom take on Sheffield Wednesday as they attempt to bounce back from their defeat at Brentford.
With that in mind, we spoke with Alex Miller, Sheffield Wednesday writer for the Sheffield Star, Charlie Sharpe and Jonathan Garnett, who have written for OwlsAlive, to get a better take on Garry Monk's side.
See what they had to say here:
How has the restart treated Sheffield Wednesday?
AM: Without getting carried away, unbelievably well, really!
The problems that Wednesday had from Boxing Day all the way up to the lockdown were pretty well documented.
I think they won two league games in that time, big players were injured too. Barry Bannan was playing, but had a groin issue and playing through it, Adam Reach was injured and playing through it. Steven Fletcher was injured too.
It just looked completely disjointed and lacking in confidence, but during that time away Garry Monk said each player was asked to take a little bit of time to think about where they were at and their attitude.
That's been a big talking point all the way through the season from Garry. He said after the Brentford game, where they lost 5-0, the culture has to change otherwise the club will never be successful. He really ripped into the changing room mentality.
He said recently it's got a lot better and everyone's gone away and come back fit and with a completely different mindset.
They've set up in a new system as well, which appears to be doing the trick and while other teams look a bit sluggish, maybe West Brom are one of those, other teams are taking a little bit more time to get back into it, but Wednesday really have started on the front foot.
JG: Very well I'd say.
We've posted four points from two games against two of the fancied sides to make the play-offs in Forest and Bristol.
The lockdown came at a good time for us, as 2020 so far had been pretty disastrous results wise, with us slipping from third at the end of last year to 15th after some pretty shocking and embarrassing performances.
Our last outing before the season was suspended was a 5-0 drubbing away at Brentford, so a chance for a fresh start was just the tonic.
CS: Probably better than we could have hoped for.
We were in such terrible form before football went into hibernation and we’ve had two positive results: A draw against Forest and a win down in Bristol.
We should’ve got 3 points against Forest but we can’t complain really.
What are the season's expectations for Wednesday now, are fans keen to see a late playoff push, or would a mid-table finish be received well?
AM: You've got to be realistic.
The fixtures which Wednesday have got, five of the next seven games are against teams that are above Wednesday.
The big story we're all, hour-by-hour, waiting on is news of a potential points deduction.
It's been rumbling on and on, we're all just sort of sat waiting around for the news - obviously, that would completely change the season.
The maximum deduction they could get is 21 points, which would see them rock-bottom and relegated. More likely they're looking between eight and 12 points, which would obviously see them well and truly in the relegation battle. But, with the way they've started you'd back them to get out of it.
But then there could be an appeal process, raising questions over when the deduction is enacted, this season or next season.
It's all dependant on this. I think fans, regardless if they were found not guilty, would probably be happy with mid-table.
There's been a big shift with players that Monk is doing, so I think they're happy to see a bit of transition.
JG: I think it all very much depends on the outcome of the EFL hearing this week.
The strong suggestion seems to be a small points deduction now, and a further deduction next season. But while that lingers on, we've still got the slimmest of chances of making the top six, and that seems to be what's motivating the team.
I think supporters just want as many points between now and the EFL's decision being made so we can stave off any threat of relegation and start fresh next season.
CS: We still have the EFL charge hanging over us so we just need to get as many points on the board as possible.
A playoff push is unrealistic so as long as we see the players put a bit of pride back into wearing the shirt and don’t go back to calamity defending, we’ll accept a mid table finish.
It’s a real shame how bad our last few months were before the lockdown given we were third at Christmas.
What sort of football can we expect from the Owls, should Albion be fearful of the trip to Hillsborough?
They're playing a 3-5-2 and they just look a lot crisper and keener to move the ball quicker. They were really sluggish in possession previously.
If you look at the results before lockdown, Wednesday had lost 5-0 twice, they'd lost 3-0 a couple of times and just looked completely disinterested, really.
I do have some concerns over the 3-5-2 and players like Matheus Pereira and Grady Diangana, they could probably open them up. The two teams they've played so far in Forest and Bristol City haven't been too imaginative in their movement.
If there is a team that Wednesday are going to face in the next few weeks which could expose them in that new system, it's probably West Brom.
JG: We've come out of Lockdown with a new formation and a fresh approach, switching to a 3-5-2 system, which so far has worked well and allowed the likes of Barry Bannan to get on the ball more in midfield and dictate the play.
We've also seen a more pressing and sharper look to the team, with players looking keen to recover the ball quickly when out of possession
CS: We’ve been playing a 352/532 formation with attacking wingbacks since the restart.
Having seen West Brom play, I don’t think you have anything to worry about if you put our defence under pressure and attack us.
Are there any injury worries heading into the game? What's your predicted XI?
AM: Julian Borner went off at half time on Sunday with a dead leg. But Garry Monk didn't seem all that worried about it.
He spoke about how squad management comes into it, so there may well be a few changes - players like Bannan, that are maybe a touch on the older side.
Wednesday's isn't exactly the freshest and youngest squad, so I think there are going to have to be changes, but Borner is the only one.
Sam Winnall and Sam Hutchinson are both leaving, but both had been frozen out anyway.
Morgan Fox played the second half on Sunday, but he's leaving the club now. Steven Fletcher's leaving too, as is Fernando Forestieri. All three of those players were offered extensions to the end of the season and rejected them.
Despite what I said about squad rotation I went for one change:
Wildsmith; Palmer, Iorfer, Borner; Murphy, Pelupessy, Bannan, Luongo, Harris; Rhodes, Wickham.
JG: We've selected the same XI for both games so far since the restart and it wouldn't surprise me to see Monk stick with the same team for the third game in a row.
The only injury concern seems to be Julian Borner in the back three, who went off with a dead leg on Sunday. I'd say it's pretty much 50/50 whether or not he starts or if club captain, Tom Lees, comes in.
CS: I’d love to see us play the same XI as we have done in the previous two matches but I suspect we’ll see a few changes given the high volume of games in quick succession.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see our midfield change slightly and we might even see a first start for youngster Alex Hunt.
Although it’d be a huge test for him against West Brom, he plays with so much confidence that I think he’d be up for the challenge.
Who are the big threats for Albion to be wary of in Wednesday's ranks?
AM: Connor Wickham has scored two in two, he's one of the players who have really stood up and looked a lot fitter and leaner since the lockdown.
Barry Bannan has been brilliant, he was carrying a knock beforehand and they've looked a lot better at the back.
JG: Connor Wickham looks a different player to the one we saw before Lockdown, with Garry Monk heaping praise on him for his fitness levels since the restart and with two goals in two games, has very much become our focal point up front.
Barry Bannan also looks to be thriving again in midfield and is our big creative threat in the middle of the park.
CS: Two goals in two games for Wickham and both from corners, he’s definitely the big threat - if he starts again.
We’re always a threat from set pieces and good for a headed goal.
What have you made of Albion from afar, do you think they have what it takes to seal promotion and survive in the PL?
AM: I grew up in Leeds, so I'm surrounded by Leeds fans and I've been telling them all season that in my mind they're the second best team in the league.
With West Brom having come back and been unable to score you do wonder if they're stuttering there.
Down at The Hawthorns I thought Wednesday were actually pretty good in that game and probably deserved at least a point. But the quality of Pereira and Diangana, I remember being brilliant.
I guess it turns to those players to come out of this little funk that they're in and make something happen.
JG: They look to have upped their game since the disappointment of last season and, much like Leeds, seem to have found the missing pieces to the jigsaw in their bid to secure automatic promotion.
I'd say Brentford are the only other stand out team that could threaten to challenge them for the top two.
I went to the Hawthorns earlier in the season and came away pretty devastated that we hadn't managed to get at least a point after equalising in the second half, but Albion showed that little bit of 'nounce', experience and guile that you need to win games and do well in this league.
I do think they'll end up securing promotion and surviving in the Premier League if they spend wisely in the summer.
CS: I had West Brom down to win the league right from the start and although, unfortunately, I think that honour will now go to Leeds, I thoroughly expect you to make it over the line.
As for staying up in the Premier League, I think investment in the squad would be needed for whoever goes up.
Your match prediction?
AM: I will go for a 1-1.
JG: We're well overdue a result against The Baggies, who always seem to win at Hillsborough.
However, we've come back with a real freshness about us since the restart and with Albion seemingly struggling for goals as of late, I think we've got a real chance.
It will be tight, but we may just nick it. 2-1.
CS: I’m going to be optimistic and go for a 1-1 draw. We don’t tend to do well or score many at home this season so if I was being realistic, I’d expect the Baggies to get the win.