Are We At A Cross-Rhodes With Jordan?
Jordan Rhodes is a player that most, if not all, Sheffield Wednesday fans wanted to see pull on an Owls shirt. I remember being on the North Stand back in the League One days where Rhodes went on to score four against us for Huddersfield in a single game, with the match ending in a 4-4 stalemate. He left the Terriers to join Blackburn in a deal said to be worth up to £8 million in 2012 and then went on to become one of the most reliable goal scorers in the second tier of English football.
At Huddersfield Rhodes managed to score 86 goals, laying 14 on for teammates in 147 games. All of those goals came while Huddersfield were in League One though barring a couple so that made his record of scoring 84 goals and providing 13 assists for Blackburn in 169 games in the Championship even more impressive. He took to the second tier like a duck to water and rapidly became one of the most sought after players at that level.
Teams often looked at Rhodes as the solution should they be aiming for promotion and he was regularly linked with moves elsewhere as Blackburn`s footballing powers began to wane. Blackburn often held firm over the value of their prized asset and it was Middlesbrough who became the club to prise the prolific marksman away from Ewood Park in a deal worth an initial £9 million.
Rhodes had joined Boro in the January transfer window of 2016 and went on to make 18 appearances for them that season, scoring 6 goals and setting up 3. Based on the time he spent on the pitch he averaged a goal every couple of games but when Boro were promoted, he quickly found himself out of favour at the Riverside under then manager Aitor Karanka. He did start 6 games in the top flight but failed to register a single goal.
Step forward long term admirers Sheffield Wednesday. Middlesbrough deemed Rhodes surplus to requirements and one year after joining the Teesside club, Rhodes would finally make the move to Hillsborough on loan, before the deal went on to become permanent in the summer. While Wednesday had just acquired the services of Barnsley`s Sam Winnall, Rhodes was seen as the man to fire us to promotion.
He played for us 18 times in the league last season and appeared in both legs on our unsuccessful playoff campaign. In that time he managed to score just 3 goals providing another 3 in the process. This means he averaged a goal once every 5 games and that was probably the worst goal scoring return of his career to date.
So far this campaign he has managed to score 6 goals in all competitions from 26 appearances, assisting one on the way. When you look into his on the field time, his goal scoring rate actually translates to a goal every 2.45 games, which you would say isn`t too bad but he could and probably should have scored a lot more goals for us since arriving a year ago.
The first thing I noticed, especially under Carlos Carvalhal when Rhodes arrived, is that he was being asked to play in a different way to what I feel he was and is accustomed to. Rhodes was often seen playing with his back to goal and looking to battle defenders and bring others into play. At previous clubs Rhodes` strike partner had always performed these duties. Lee Nowak at Huddersfield and Rudy Gestede at Blackburn were both superb foils for Rhodes as they were imposing physically, good in the air, comfortable playing with their back to goal and with this it freed space for Rhodes to exploit.
Rhodes for me is a player who plays best facing the opposition goal, looking to get on the end of short through balls and crosses in and around the 18 yard box where his movement pays dividends. Under new manager Jos Luhukay, Rhodes is getting the chance to play to his strengths a bit more and while I feel Lucas Joao has been good for us of late, even at 6`4, he isn`t a target man type. He wants to play facing the opposition`s goal, he wants to do what Rhodes does with a bit more pizzazz.
Against Cardiff and like we have seen on a few occasions now, Rhodes missed guilt edge chances that the Rhodes of old would have buried with his eyes closed. I do personally feel that if he managed to grab a couple of goals, it would improve his confidence immeasurably and he would start to rediscover the form that most of us have seen for years in the Championship while he was at Blackburn.
The problem is, Wednesday right now need to start scoring goals and if Rhodes isn`t the man to deliver them, maybe it will be worth giving a player such as Marco Matias a shot at the top of the pitch, until our injury problems subside. He was great in the FA Cup against Carlisle, scoring a goal and playing Atdhe Nuhiu in for his strike, and against Cardiff when he came on he added a bit of a spark to our attacking line.
I personally feel Rhodes would fare a lot better with Steven Fletcher as a strike partner or even Gary Hooper but as things stand both are unavailable unfortunately. I also feel that in our new set up, we are more of a counter attacking side too, which I don`t feel suits Rhodes` game either. I do think Rhodes can come good but it would potentially require a change in system or striker partner or both to find that winning formula.
What I don`t think we should do is lambaste Rhodes for missing chances or for not being able to do it in front of goal. We`re right to expect better, especially for the amount of money paid for him but he will also expect better of himself too. He must be doing something right in training to keep getting picked, as that`s where the manager makes his decisions, so maybe it is just a confidence issue. A couple of goals will do him the world of good and hopefully we can encourage him to get them.