Garry Monk will likely be ecstatic with the way life has started for him at Sheffield Wednesday.
The Owls are unbeaten in the Championship under their new boss and have picked up seven points from three games.
Arguably their finest performance came against Middlesbrough on Saturday. Wednesday scored four goals inside the first 35 minutes to kill the game at the Riverside and claim a victory that saw them climb to seventh–one point outside the play-offs.
That impressive run has come without captain Tom Lees as the centre-back has missed the past four league games with an injury.
Dominic Iorfa has stepped up in the 24-year-old’s place and after some very impressive performances has received a lot of praise from fans of the club.
With Lees close to returning to fitness, Monk now faces a difficult decision. Does he drop the in-form man or leave his captain out?
We put a spotlight on the pair’s performances in today’s FLW duel…
Despite his recent injury problems, Lees has featured more for the Owls this season–playing for 488 minutes in the total in the Championship, in comparison to Iorfa’s 390.
Both men have partnered summer free-agent signing Julian Borner, who has had an outstanding start to life at Hillsborough and looks likely to keep his starting role.
Iorfa is the more naturally-gifted player in terms of athleticism and in his case, that means he can often be more of a reactive defender, in comparison to the more proactive approach taken by Lees. That is reflected in the duo’s defensive duel statistics. Lees has a much higher defensive duel success rate, 85.7%, than his teammate, 72.2%, however, he attempts a much lower number of defensive duels, which suggests he prefers not to commit himself unless he feels he can win the ball.
Lees’ averages more clearances per game, 3.32 to his teammate’s 2.77, which is further evidence of that he is more reliant on positioning and ensuring he is in the right place at the right time for his side.
That is not to say Iorfa reads the game badly but that he is less reliant on his positioning and more on his athleticism and tackling. The 24-year-old’s average of 3.92 interceptions per game (above Lees’ average of 2.77) is a perfect example of how effective it can be when he combines his athleticism with his reading of the game.
In the air, both men’s statistics show they’re relatively strong, winning the majority of their aerial duels. However, Lees is the more effective–attempting a higher number of aerial duels, 7.93 per game to Iorfa’s 5.14, at a higher success rate, 60.5% to 54.5%.
Monk will be hoping his side are in the ascendancy for the majority of their games moving forward, which means the distribution skills of their central defenders will be important. Both Iorfa and Lees have shown that they’re more than capable with the ball at their feet and their pass success rates above 80% reflect that.
Iorfa is the in-form man and has certainly repaid Monk’s faith in him but, for me, Lees is the more natural defender and with his experience and role as the team’s leader, he needs to come back into the side.
However, that doesn’t mean Iorfa needs to drop out. The 24-year-old is a more than capable right-back and given the shaky start to the season Moses Odubajo has had, I suspect Monk may look to utilise him there.
Whatever decision the new Wednesday boss lands on, it is certainly a nice selection dilemma to have.