As ever, the Championship is proving just why it’s one of the most unpredictable divisions in world football, with Sheffield Wednesday having ended a five-match winless streak against Charlton last weekend and still being just two points off the top six. What have you made of what you’ve seen so far?
I think Garry Monk has made a solid start as Sheffield Wednesday manager. I think the two themes of the recent games have been the late, late let-downs and the team pushing the panic button. But overall, the standard of the performances against teams like Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion, to name but two, have been actually quite good and encouraging for supporters. But for those late brain-freezes, they should have had a few more points than they’ve actually got. Monk is, essentially, trying to get even more out of an experienced squad that has had its fallibilities for years now, but for the time being at least, he’s doing OK.
With almost half of the season done and dusted, the Owls have lost just one of their nine games at Hillsborough so far. How important do you think their home form is going to be in reaching any promotion targets they may have set?
I think it’s going to be absolutely vital. They have been pretty good at home; initially under Monk they were, more often than not, on the right side of fine margin games at home and that has served them well. Their away results, historically, suggest it’s going to be patchy, so there will be a degree of reliance on that in this mad division that is, typically, predictably unpredictable. One of about 15 teams that strike a level of consistency can find themselves in the play-offs. Personally, I think it’ll be Leeds, West Brom and Fulham top three in a certain order, but that just means there are three spots up for grabs and Wednesday, alongside Brentford, are one of those teams that could get one of them.
Moses Odubajo joined the club after his release by Brentford in the summer. How has he settled in to life in Yorkshire?
Generally, he’s done OK. He’s been competing with Liam Palmer for the full-back berth and occasionally Dominic Iorfa, but he’s seen as more of a centre-half. He’s added a little bit of pace that perhaps Liam doesn’t have, although Liam is certainly a better defender. If you’d asked fans what they though after the game against Preston where he gave away two penalties, they’d probably say not very well, but otherwise he’s been a steady Eddie type player, which is what you need from a full-back.
Which player has impressed you most so far during this campaign?
The most consistent strong performer is Barry Bannan, who makes Wednesday tick – when he’s on it, generally the whole team are on it. They added a little bit of pace in Kadeem Harris (pictured above) in the summer and he started the season superbly, though has possibly tapered off in recent weeks. He’s been good on the whole, though, and Wednesday have generally needed that pace. They are a little lop-sided as neither Jacob Murphy nor Adam Reach has nailed down the right of the front three role but the other star man has been Steven Fletcher who has been, by and large, excellent. He had a dry spell but that dry spell came to an end at Charlton where he scored twice. He’s the only striker Wednesday can hang their hat on right now; they can’t hang it on Jordan Rhodes, Sam Winnall doesn’t get a look in and Fernando Forestieri doesn’t play nearly enough.
How is Garry Monk likely to set up his side at Hillsborough?
Invariably, he’s gone 4-3-3. There are selection poses, not least at centre-half, depending on injury and suspension. He’s dependent on Keiren Westwood’s state of injury, Cameron Dawson will start in goal, though he’s not really done anything to warrant being dropped. In defence it’ll be a combination of Obubajo, Palmer, Julian Borner, Tom Lees, Iorfa and probably Morgan Fox at left-back, while in midfield it’ll be Bannan, Sam Hutchinson, perhaps Massimo Luongo and then a supposed front three of Fletcher, Harris and one of Murphy or Reach, as a bit of a guess.
Brentford have won three of the last five meetings between the two sides, but what’s your score prediction for the game?
Brentford are going great guns, but Wednesday still have their fallibilities so I’m going for a score draw. 2-2.
Tickets for Saturday's game go off sale at 2pm Friday, 6 December.