There has been a lot of debate about the number one spot in Garry Monk’s Sheffield Wednesday side, with neither Keiren Westwood nor Cameron Dawson showing enough consistency to nail down the spot.
The Owls have seen their hopes of pushing for promotion dashed quite thoroughly since the turn of the New Year, with just one league win in that time meaning they have slumped down 12th and now nine points behind the top six.
Their form in the early stages of Monk’s tenure at Hillsborough was strong enough to see them considered promotion contenders, however, huge inconsistencies saw that fizzle away, as has been the case in Monk’s other jobs in the second tier.
Monk, throughout his managerial career, has seen his best results come through consistency of team selection from week to week, but having inherited this squad from Steve Bruce in September, he has been left to experiment and find his best players and system over time.
A key selection dilemma that he has faced is the question of who is the right man to take up the goalkeeper slot, with Keiren Westwood dominating the early stages of the season in goal over Cameron Dawson.
However, a string of mistakes was enough to see him dropped, culminating in gifting West Brom a penalty following a rush of blood that saw him sprint out of goal to bring down Matheus Pereira, seeing Wednesday lose the game 2-1. Since then, Dawson has started every single game for the Owls as their form continues to slump.
Speculation surrounding Westwood’s future in the meantime has intensified and was plundered into huge doubt when he opened up on the supposed training ground rift between him and Monk, which had the indications of the Republic of Ireland international accepting his time at Hillsborough being up.
With Dawson seemingly set to keep his place for the remainder of the season, we take a look at their numbers this season to see whether Monk has made the right call to exile the 35-year-old…
With Westwood not playing a single minute of football since the West Brom clash back in mid-November, he has clocked up a total of 1432 minutes this season, while Dawson has well surpassed this with 2321 minutes for the Owls so far.
In terms of goals conceded, Dawson is obviously on the worse end of this as a total having played much more football, as well as playing for Wednesday in a much poorer run of form. He has conceded 27 goals in all competitions this season while Westwood has shipped 17, with Dawson’s ‘per game’ rate being at 1.05 and Westwood’s at 1.07. It shows how Dawson has been more consistent for Wednesday as he has still managed to concede less per game even when the side are playing markedly worse and conceding a lot more chances. A massive spike in his goals conceded comes from the 5-0 thumping at home to Blackburn Rovers where Dawson can’t really be held accountable for any of the goal.
Even though Westwood has conceded slightly more per game, he’s actually faced slightly fewer shots per game with 3.39 compared to the 24-year-old’s 3.41.
Another stat that Dawson edges ever so slightly is the number of saves he makes per game, with a current rate of 2.37 on average, while Westwood averages 2.33 per game. It does have to be said though that Dawson is clearly having more to do at the moment which could play into this figure.
Westwood edges the amount of exits made per game from crosses and set-pieces, with an average of 1.7 per game compared to Dawson’s 1.51. Experience has a huge factor in how well a ‘keeper can deal with balls into the box and then 10 year’s difference plays a lot into Westwood’s favour here, with his organisation and ability to read the game a lot more refined than Dawson’s at the moment.
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In terms of distribution, Dawson edges this one too with his long passing accuracy standing at 71.4% while Westwood’s is just below on 70.3%. Both players are very accurate with closer range passing and that is to be expected under little pressure, but the real accuracy in their kicking stems from how effective they are going long to Monk’s target men, to which Dawson has been just better.
The stats are very tight between these two and there are strong cases to be made for both to be the first choice, given that Dawson is better in the majority of them, but Westwood is vastly experienced and typically reliable in goal.
One player needs to be the first-choice without question and have the complete backing and it’s no surprise that Dawson has been given the nod, given he has 10 years on his counterpart and is performing at a similar level at the moment.