Simon Grayson on Sheffield Wednesday’s attacking riches and why possession stats don’t matter

Barry Bannan.....Pic Steve Ellis
Barry Bannan.....Pic Steve Ellis
Have your say

Simon Grayson may be happy with the spine of his Sunderland squad, but a quick glance at the Sheffield Wednesday bench tonight will underline the need for greater depth.

The Owls will, in all likelihood, leave three of Fernando Forestieri, Steven Fletcher, Sam Winnall, Gary Hooper and Atdhe Nuhiu on the bench.

Sunderland AFC 0-5 Celtic FC Dafabet Cup, Stadium of Light, Sunderland. 29-07-2027. Picture by FRANK REID

Sunderland AFC 0-5 Celtic FC Dafabet Cup, Stadium of Light, Sunderland. 29-07-2027. Picture by FRANK REID

Such attacking strength is a key reason they have been able to fire their way into the play-offs two years in a row, on both occasions finishing the season far stronger than their immediate rivals.

Youngsters Joel Asoro and Josh Maja should help Grayson but at least one more proven campaigner is clearly required.

In an immediate sense, it makes Carlos Carvalhal’s team selection unpredictable, particularly after a poor start to the season. Forestieri missed the 1-1 draw with QPR following a training ground bust-up, while Fletcher picked up a knee injury in that game.

Grayson said: “It’s my job to know about individuals and collectively what they do as a team, we have every team watched probably three times before we play them and have reports.

“Our preparation is good. Ultimately, it is what happens on a matchday situation.

“Will they get the breaks or will we? All these key factors can go a long way to deciding the outcome of a game.

“They have plenty of attacking options – to get all of them into one team would be some formation!

“We are working out permutations. We will do the work we need to do. Whatever we do we need to make sure we carry out the gameplan.”

With such a talented front line, and plenty of midfield quality in Barry Bannan, Sunderland may also have to spend plenty of time out of possession.

Norwich City boss Daniel Farke was quick to talk up his side’s dominance of the ball after losing 3-1 on Sunday, but such statistics are of little concern to Grayson.

“We said Norwich would come at us, you have to withstand some pressure and if you do that then you will get chances in the game,” he said.

“Stats can prove very different to how you read them, 70 per cent possession to Norwich didn’t bother me because probably 40 per cent of that was in their own half playing across from the three centre halves.

“It is what matters in both boxes and we did very well in that respect.

“When you are under pressure, like we will be at Hillsborough and at times against Leeds on Saturday you have to withstand that because we will have large moments in the game where we can show our qualities,” he added.

“I take each game as it comes, the old cliche. We can only affect the next one in front of us and that is Sheffield Wednesday.

“They have been around the top end of the Championship for the past two or three seasons and have some talented players on their books but not had the start of the season they would have liked but we are only two games in.

“We go there trying to build on our two results and get three more points if possible.”

Grayson is relishing the clash with Carvalhal, a popular figure among managers in the second tier.

The Sunderland boss is hoping for a better result than he managed last season, however, with a defeat at Hillsborough followed by a draw at Deepdale.

Grayson said: “I have had a good relationship with Carlos [Carvalhal] in recent years, he is a really nice bloke. Mind he robbed us blind when we were at Preston last year – scoring in the 95th minute when we absolutely battered them and drew 1-1.

“He was very apologetic –hopefully it is the other way round on Wednesday and I am apologising for beating them 1-0!

“Sheffield Wednesday are a big football club with a huge fanbase up and down the country, Hillsborough is a great arena to go and play,” he added.

“Our players have to embrace that and put on another good performance.”

As well as Steven Fletcher, centre-back Glen Loovens is also a doubt for the game after sustaining an impact injury in the QPR draw.

Sam Hutchinson, Kieran Lee and Almen Adbi are all missing, with Josh Maja Sunderland’s only injury concern.

Jack Rodwell and Bryan Oviedo could return to the squad as Simon Grayson looks to keep his squad fresh during a demanding schedule.