Can Garry Monk turn results around at Sheffield Wednesday?

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 18 February 2020, 09:23

With just one league win to their name since Christmas, Sheffield Wednesday have the look of a club in crisis. The question is: How big a part has manager Garry Monk played in their current troubles? 

Gabriel Sutton discusses the state of play at Hillsborough...

Recruitment issues

Wednesday’s problems are by no means unique to Monk’s regime.

Since they lost 1-0 to Hull in the 2016 Championship Play-Off Final, they have made 36 signings on permanent and loan deals combined.

Of those, only Steven Fletcher, Adam Reach, Michael Hector and Kadeem Harris have significantly enhanced their squads.

Debates could be held over the merits of Dominic Iorfa, Julian Borner and Jacob Murphy – the latter was dropped by Monk five games ago, just as he was finding form.

Additionally, it may be too early to judge January recruits Alessio Da Cruz, Connor Wickham and Josh Windass – the latter has so far looked lively.

In the same timeframe, 35 players have permanently exited the club – of those, none have gone on have made a bona fide step up. 

This tells us that, for a long time, the club has had problems not only spotting the talent at a young age, but creating the right climate for players to develop.

These recruitment issues stem from the fact that all their business has reportedly gone through one agent, Amadeou Paxiao.

This reliance on Paxiao narrows the pool when it comes to recruitment and perhaps if they were shopping from a wider pool of players, they would have more success in finding the right ones.

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Does Garry Monk deserve an opportunity to change the culture at the club?

Structural problems

The problems above come from the shortage of footballing minds upstairs from the management team.

The position of a manager is precarious: if they oversee a bad run and are delivering poor performances, they will always divide supporters and sometimes their position can become difficult.

For that reason, it is important to have an independent footballing mind at the club, who can oversee the development across lots of different areas – it is hard for the manager to do that whilst coaching the team and dealing with the stresses of the job.

So far, all the major decisions have been made by Chansiri or Paxiao.

Although Chansiri has put a lot of money into the club and cares about its fortunes, much of the Thai businessman’s investment has not been directed in a healthy way.

Seven-figure fees were paid for the likes of David Jones, Daniel Pudil and Almen Abdi who had no resale value, then he splashed out a reported £10.5 million on a 27-year-old Jordan Rhodes in 2017, loaning the Scot out to Norwich a year later.

All of these investments were made with the short-term aim of getting into the Premier League, when so much could have been done with their long-term fortunes.

The club should have used that money to redevelop the ground, strengthen the facilities, improve it’s scouting network, offer more fan engagement to adjust to the modern era and provide fairer ticket prices… all those things could have been valuable for decades.

Instead, the mistakes have set them back a long time and Monk is suffering from the consequences of that.

Stagnating squad

Because of the aforementioned recruitment issues, the squad has stagnated and arguably declined over the last three years.

Senior players who have been there a long time – Keiren Westwood, Tom Lees, Liam Palmer, Sam Hutchinson and Barry Bannan – may have held too much power in the dressing room for too long.

There have been two occasions on which Lee Bullen, respected for his passion and honesty, has inspired a good run of results by taking interim charge.

It seems unlikely, though, that he would take the club forward long-term, just because he is too close to players who are past their best and would not give the club the shake-up it needs. 

Bannan, for example, has some tidy touches, he can recycle the ball well and produce moments of quality, but he does not quite have the legs he used to have – certainly not from his stellar 2015-16 campaign - and thus when he plays, the team tends to drop 20 yards deeper.

The problem any manager will have reducing Bannan’s prominence is that, firstly, he is a politically popular figure and secondly, there are not many alternatives in the squad, leaving every boss in a state of limbo.

Loss of Fletcher

Amid all the valid question marks over the club, it is easy to forget that Wednesday’s 2019 return – 72 points from 46 games – is borderline Play-Off form.

Fletcher had been a huge part of those impressive results, offering Wednesday a crucial reference point as well as a strong work ethic and, considering his size, a reasonable amount of mobility.

The Scottish striker picked up an injury in January’s FA Cup victory at Brighton and was ruled out for 10 weeks, a big factor in the dip in form.

Monk’s power battle

Monk has stood up to stalwarts Westwood and Hutchinson.

The former has not featured for the senior team since late-November, while the latter has absent since late-January and Bannan, mentioned above, was left out of the last starting XI, before coming on at half-time in a 3-0 home loss to Reading.

These are brave moves from the manager.

Short-term, Monk might have had a better chance of positive results by being more supportive of these players, which is what Lee Bullen and Steve Bruce did with reasonable success in brief stints.

Long-term, though, the squad needs a clear-out and the club needs to establish a new, fresh crop of players to provide fresh energy, allowing the manager to be ruthless at times and maintain high standards.

Monk should not be immune to scrutiny but, with all he has had to face, he deserves an opportunity to change the culture at the club.

England - Championship: Outright Winner Odds

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Odds Correct as of 2020-03-16 08:54:27

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