The inside track on Sheffield Wednesday: How Garry Monk's side are shaping up ahead of Middlesbrough clash

Former Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher has scored four league goals for Sheffield Wednesday this season.Former Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher has scored four league goals for Sheffield Wednesday this season.
Former Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher has scored four league goals for Sheffield Wednesday this season.
Middlesbrough will welcome Sheffield Wednesday and former manager Garry Monk to the Riverside this weekend – but what should they expect?

We caught up with Wednesday reporter Alex Miller from our sister title the Sheffield Star to find out how the Owls are shaping up under Monk.

1. How have Wednesday started the season and have there been any changes following the appointment of Garry Monk?

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AM: “All things considered, Wednesday are reasonably happy with their start to the campaign after a turbulent pre-season.

“The departure of Steve Bruce to Newcastle pulled the rug on what was a very promising last few months of 2018/19, and the club were under a soft transfer embargo for a long time after failing to hand over their accounts to the EFL on time.

“But they find themselves within touching distance of where they want to be come May - the play-offs - and Garry Monk has made an encouraging start to his tenure, beating Huddersfield and drawing with Fulham.

“Monk has switched the team's style to 4-4-2 from the 4-3-3 preferred by caretaker manager Lee Bullen, he's given opportunities to a couple of players that didn't feature much under Bruce and Bullen and his mantra is simple - there needs to be a mentality change for Wednesday to achieve their potential.”

2. What is the general view on Monk's appointment?

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AM: “Lee Bullen was caretaker for nearly two months, suggesting Monk wasn't Dejphon Chansiri's first choice - they approached Chris Hughton and reportedly flirted with the appointment of the Cowley brothers just days before Monk's appointment.

“A look down his CV - Boro aside perhaps - is encouraging, and there is a feeling that he is a safe pair of hands with lots of Championship experience.

“Wednesday fans seem to have taken to him and after the whirlwind of the summer it's clear the club are behind their man.”

3. What system are Wednesday likely to play against Boro?

AM: “It's very early days, but Wednesday's best outing under Monk came after he switched to a 4-4-2 during the Yorkshire derby with Huddersfield and he's stuck with that up to now.

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“It's been a little while since they played with two out-and-out strikers but Sam Winnall has been encouraging on his long-awaited return to the side alongside the bang in-form Steven Fletcher.

“Whether he sets up differently away from home remains to be seen - they have players with pace to set up on the counter if required.”

4. Who are the side's key players who Boro will have to watch out for?

AM: “Kadeem Harris - a free transfer from Cardiff - has been a breath of fresh air on the wing and has caused problems in every outing so far.

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“Former Sunderland front man Steven Fletcher has four league goals and has led the line brilliantly and new man Julian Borner has caught the eye at centre-half.

“But on his day Barry Bannan is still the man that makes the side tick and Boro will no doubt be preparing how to nullify his threat on Saturday.”

5. What would mark a good season for the Owls?

AM: “After Carlos Carvalhal's back-to-back play-off qualifications and the amount of money spent in recent seasons the aim will always be promotion.

“But like so many others the club tightened its belt in the summer and after the disruption of Bruce's exit many fans would accept the old notion of 'progress' this season, preparing the foundations for a stronger run at the top six next time out.

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“That said, if Monk can hit the ground running, if Fletcher keeps scoring and if key men around can develop the form they're capable of, a play-off berth is within their grasp. But that's a lot of ifs.”