Alan Biggs: All-purpose Sheffield Wednesday heading for top six

Owls Head Coach Carlos Carvalhal with Barry Bannan
Owls Head Coach Carlos Carvalhal with Barry Bannan
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You can twist the dial to make any number of permutations and Sheffield Wednesday are capable of coming up with the right combinations.

But a pattern is emerging if they are to become safe-crackers of the best opposition around them.

by Pete McKee

by Pete McKee

These key creative players have to be part of the sequence – Barry Bannan, Fernando Forestieri, Ross Wallace and (on his good days) Lucas Joao. Strip out half of them - the first two, as at Stoke in a highly respectable Capital One quarter final exit – and Carlos Carvalhal doesn’t quite have that extra edge against the better teams.

It’s not to pinpoint a flaw, more an attempt to get to the heart of what this Wednesday squad, containing several effective line-ups, is fundamentally about. Gary Hooper has yet to join that influential group but the hope must be that this expensive loan striker, lacking previous game time this season, can click into match-winning mode.

The fact that all were paraded, in an otherwise altered line-up, against Derby last Sunday fuelled a view in some quarters that Wednesday should have committed more to going for the win in what was essentially a good team display in the 0-0 draw with a Derby side strongly tipped for automatic promotion.

It’s a fine equilibrium, though. Listening to Carvalhal afterwards suggested the team’s overall balance is understandably his main priority and concern in tight matches. Would over-committing to attack disturb a unit shaping as genuine play-off hopefuls? The calculation is delicate and fragile. But his message seems to be that, in this format, the overall structure is anything but fragile.

The framework around the potential game changers is variable and solid. Sam Hutchinson looked as accomplished at centre half in place of the injured Tom Lees as he did in midfield where Alex Lopez returned to fill the anchorman role. And how good it was to see Liam Palmer fill in admirably for Jack Hunt at right back, albeit that he must work on his crossing.

All of this adds to the many existing options, suggesting Wednesday can be relied upon to have a core of strength and compactness. Carlvalhal’s refusal to dwell on injuries makes much the same statement. It’s clever of him to put the focus and the onus on those who are playing rather than those who are not.

Maybe a little fine tuning is needed to maximise a depth of quality that keeps the gifted Lewis McGugan rooted to the bench. Could he add a fresh dimension to it? I, for one, would like to see him more involved. Whatever, the outlook is unquestionably healthy for the second half of the season.

You always hesitate to talk-up an Owls revival after so many false dawns, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Carvalhal’s all-purpose crew accelerate into the top six in the second half of the season.