Sheffield Wednesday have plenty of areas to sharpen up over the international break after an inconsistent start to the 2016/17 season.
Carlos Carvalhal’s men occupy 10th position after 16 outings, but the Owls have struggled to score goals and fallen behind in 10 of their Championship fixtures.
Ex-Wednesday defender Jon Newsome, who represented the Hillsborough outfit 74 times across two spells in the 1990s, has given his thoughts on his old club’s performances and where they must improve.
Dom Howson (DH): What is your take on Wednesday’s start to the season?
Jon Newsome (JN): We are probably where we deserve to be. I think a few people got carried away at the end of last season and in pre-season saying we are going to finish in the top two.
The Championship is a really strong league and very tough to get out of. There is a lot of competition. Anybody can beat anybody.
The teams you would have expected to do well like Aston Villa and Derby haven’t done great so far.
Newcastle have put a good run together and Brighton aren’t far behind them but everybody else seem to be taking points off each other so you have to be realistic.
DH: Wednesday were booed off after losing at home to Ipswich Town. Can you understand the fans’ frustration?
JN: The supporters were disappointed, of course, with the result against Ipswich but it was the way we got beat which upset a lot of people.
The expectation levels have risen dramatically at Hillsborough and that’s because of the success we had last season.
The team received plenty of plaudits and praise last year. In my opinion, we over-achieved in qualifying for the Play-Offs and getting to the Final. By coming so close to promotion, it raised the bar and I just don’t think it is clicking. Things don’t seem to be right at the moment.
DH: How do they turn things around?
JN: It is probably a blessing in disguise that the next couple of away games are away from home.
Wednesday like to dominate possession and I think they are better suited to playing away from home.
When you are away, the emphasis is more on the home team to go and make things happen and that plays into Wednesday’s hands. We can get a hold of the ball and take the sting out of the game. I think that’s where we do better.
The glaring point for me is we have played better this season when we go behind and are chasing a game.
Our build up play was slow and predictable in the opening half an hour against Ipswich.
When we go behind in games, the tempo increases dramatically and we start using the width. We start getting behind people and we take the game to the opposition.
When we play like that, we can get at teams and beat them.
In the second half versus Ipswich, we reverted back to how we played in the first half hour.
People talk about formations and whether players are playing in the right positions but the biggest thing for me is that we have to play on the front foot.
When we do that, we look a good team.
DH: Fernando Forestieri was the main man for Wednesday last time around. How do you think he has performed this season?
JN: Fernando was undoubtedly our best player last season. He was fantastic and the supporters and club loved him. He was playing with lots of confidence and he was great.
The whole dynamic changed when he refused to play against Norwich earlier this season.
Having witnessed that in my career with people, I said on social media at the time that the best thing to do was to get rid of him and get as much money as possible.
The chairman’s stance surprised me and I admire him for standing firm.
He probably dealt with it in the fashion that he would have dealt with it in his line of business. He didn’t let Forestieri walk out and dictate terms to the club.
But with hindsight now, has it worked? Has it achieved what we wanted?
He hasn’t recaptured that form of last season so it does then pose the question ‘were we right to keep a hold of him?’
I said to somebody the other day that, hypothetically, if Wednesday decided to let him go in January, his value now compared to what it was last season would probably be half.
DH: What do Wednesday have to start doing to get the best out of Forestieri again?
JN: It might be a case of giving him a long run in the side, but the manager likes to chop and change.
Wednesday have such a high number of players at the club so how do you keep them all happy? I don’t think you can. At the end of the day, footballers always want to play. When you are not playing, you do start to get a little disgruntled, especially when the team are not winning every week.
DH: Big things were expected of summer signing Almen Abdi. Why do you think he has found difficult to hit top form?
JN: I do feel sorry for Abdi as I don’t think he has played in his best position. You can throw him on for 20 minutes or half an hour here and there but his confidence will have taken a bit of a knock as he has not been in the team.
He’s probably not sure whether they actually want him or not.
I can only relate it back to when I played. The best football I played was when I felt most wanted and the club would put an arm around me and say ‘you’re going to play on Saturday and you’re the first name on the team-sheet’. I loved it and I would run through brick walls for the team.
There were other times when I was dropped for no reason and I wasn’t getting in at places and I was thinking ‘I don’t think they really want me here’ and you start questioning yourself and your confidence takes a bit of a hit.
And when you do get your chance, you don’t play as well as you would have done if you had got a run in the team.
DH: Carlos Carvalhal has received some criticism for Wednesday’s inconsistent form. How confident are you that he will be given the time to rectify their results?
JN: At the end of the day, he was brought in by the chairman so Carvalhal is his man.
I’m sure the chairman is disappointed that we are 10th and disappointed with a couple of the results but now is not the time for knee-jerk reactions.
We have lost two games on the spin. It is not panic stations.
I don’t think for one minute that the manager is under any pressure at the moment. He took them to the brink of promotion and we are not far off the top-six right now.
The games will come thick and fast over the Christmas period and we have a big squad so hopefully we will fare better than some of the other teams.