Keeping things simple seems like the best approach
Having enjoyed a good run of form, especially at home, when Neil Thompson was put in temporary charge of the team in December, Sheffield Wednesday have now slumped to three successive defeats without scoring, pushing them further into trouble near the foot of the table.
When Wednesday beat fellow strugglers Wycombe Wanderers at Hillsborough earlier in the month to record their fifth home win in a row the result moved them out of the bottom three. That evening Wednesday lined up in something of a 3-5-2 formation with Kadeem Harris at right-wing-back and Adam Reach on the left, Jordan Rhodes partnering Callum Paterson in attack.
The same approach was followed for the following game away at Stoke and although the Owls didn't perform well they were very much in the game until substitutions tipped the balance in the favour of the home side and Steven Fletcher scored a late winner against his former club.
Next up a crucial home game against woefully out of form Birmingham City. Wednesday deployed a 4-4-2 with Reach out of the side, Bannan on the left where he has rarely featured since Carlos Carvalhal was manager and Windass coming in for Rhodes in attack. The dismissal of Liam Shaw early in the second half gave Birmingham the impetus to go on and win the game but in truth Wednesday had performed poorly before the red card and were lucky not to be behind at half-time.
The last game at Brentford on Wednesday evening ended in a 3-0 defeat. Up until the home side made it 2-0 midway through the second half the Owls had done OK but had rarely threatened a goal having conceded a poor opener in the first half. Thompson had reverted back to a form of 3-5-2 but with Reach as an advanced midfielder in support of Kachunga and Rhodes with Penney at left-wing-back. Reach didn't get into the game at all and it was no surprise to see him substituted in the second half.
With 15 games to go the Owls are very much still in with a chance of survival but to do so they must surely play to their strengths. Adam Reach is a left sided player who creates chances when played in a position that best suits him. He did have a fine goal scoring spell under Jos Luhukay when cutting in from the right but his overall contribution and the shape of the team is more effective when he is on the left. Callum Paterson's all round game has sometimes left a lot to be desired but in recent weeks he has found a knack of being in the right place at the right time and has scored important goals. This is not by chance and so he should really be in the side. Jordan Rhodes also seems to benefit from having someone up top alongside him, his attributes are not suited to an isolated role.
In midfield, injuries and suspensions are further hampering selections. Massimo Luongo is facing an extended spell on the sidelines, Fisayo Dele-Bashiru has now joined him after being on the wrong end of a poor challenge in the defeat at Brentford and Liam Shaw will miss the Luton game this weekend as he completes a 2-match ban.
With two thirds of the season gone, Wednesday fans will be wondering if Izzy Brown will get a chance to show what he is capable of before the end of his loan spell. The Chelsea midfielder started in promising fashion, creating the opening goal of the season in the win at Cardiff but has only started two league games since. Fitness is said to have been an issue but continually giving him 10-15 minutes from the bench is not serving any purpose or benefiting the player or the team. Wednesday must start to try and be more positive and look to win games, perhaps away to Luton on Saturday, where Brown enjoyed a positive loan spell last season, would be a good place to give him an opportunity. Barry Bannan is capable of dictating play in midfield and finding a pass but he naturally operates from deep and so needs more options ahead of him.
The squad is unbalanced and injuries aren't helping but if Wednesday are to give themselves a fighting chance of staying in the Championship then playing players in their natural positions and playing to their own strengths rather than being over concerned about what the opposition will do would seem to serve as the best approach.