Carlos Carvalhal has wanted a central midfielder since early summer.
Aaron Mooy of Huddersfield, on loan from Manchester City, was arguably the Championship’s outstanding player in that position last summer and one good source suggested to me, even before the Terriers met Sheffield Wednesday in the play-offs, that he was a target.
Of course, Huddersfield’s promotion to the Premier League put paid to that, regardless of the Financial Fair Play issues with which Wednesday have since been wrestling.
The Owls are still pursuing other midfielders – but it strikes me they now have a player capable of being just as influential as Mooy in this season’s Championship. Well, they already had him.
He’s Barry Bannan, a shining light during what has been a slightly murky start to a campaign which still promises much because of players of his quality.
We are seeing a refreshing new dimension to an accomplished performer in a central, play-making role that should be his for the season.
Rather, it’s the position alongside earmarked for Sam Hutchinson, injured again, that remains a priority to fill. Kieran Lee, too, is a big loss.
Bannan may not be as physically robust as Mooy but he’s a skilful, clever passer and silky runner with the ball who also lacks nothing in tenacity and occasional bite, as with the challenge that sparked the Bolton touchline rumpus on Tuesday. In short, a 27-year-old at the top of his game.
Results may not reflect this but I still think we’ve seen enough to accept that Wednesday are trying to go about it differently this year.
Defenders are not lingering aimlessly on the ball, passes are intended forward rather than back, there’s more width and crosses.
At the heart of this is Bannan, a player now facing goalwards with his head up.
Starts are still infuriatingly slow and goal output poor but, with the calibre of striker at the club, I believe that will change if Carvalhal’s team maintain a more positive approach. It’s embodied in so many ways by their former Aston Villa midfielder , whose opening two seasons were so contrasting.
In the first, largely in a wide role to which he’s not ideally suited, Bannan shone in an adventurous line-up.
Last season, as the team withdrew into a protective shell against wised-up opposition, the Scotland midfielder went sideways and back.
Now we’re seeing him surely in his best position and if there are better creative players in the Championship then none come instantly to mind.
And I believe Jordan Rhodes, hopefully rekindled by two goals in the otherwise disappointing Carabao Cup defeat in midweek, can succeed in the long run, especially if Adam Reach continues to flourish.
I’m still of the view that if a player has to be sold to freshen the squad within FFP then Wednesday should consider a bid – IF one comes at around £10m plus – for Fernando Forestieri. If that doesn’t materialise or it proves unnecessary to sell, then fine.
Nothing against the bloke. Two things you can’t question of Forestieri are his ability and his work ethic; only where you play him and whether any fall-out from last season persists.
I did tweet recently I’d be surprised if he played for Wednesday again, which I’d probably say again in the circumstances of the time but which proved to be rash. That said, it’s good for all concerned that things have settled down. Let’s see how they pan out from here and hope it’s best for all.