Alan Biggs: Carlos' conundrum ...who's the best partner for Jordan Rhodes?

We're all 'managers' and in the overwhelming majority of cases vastly unqualified compared to the men actually paid to do the job.

Thursday, 9th February 2017, 10:49 am
Updated Tuesday, 28th February 2017, 11:49 am
Victory salute on his debut from Owls Jordan Rhodes

So when it comes to Sheffield Wednesday’s best partner for Jordan Rhodes – and my tendency to favour an alternative to Fernando Forestieri – this column’s opinion is as amateurish as anyone’s.

There’ll be many views on this and only time will tell, starting with Birmingham’s visit tomorrow (Friday). The opening premise is that Rhodes will start the majority of games, if not all.

Carlos Carvalhal’s instant selection of the £8m club record capture in last week’s scratchy win at Wigan was a booming statement in that regard.

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The Owls’ head coach also made a point afterwards of applauding the new striker’s embryonic partnership with Forestieri, although the early evidence for me was inconclusive.

What the game did highlight was Fernando’s beavering-back work ethic, admirably rare in a so-called flair player. More significantly perhaps, we saw Rhodes make a fair fist of what he’s NOT reputed for, hold up and link play while winning a fair number of headers, including the flick on for Ross Wallace’s winner.

It could be that we under-estimate the prolific marksman in this regard. Certainly he looked physical enough, plus supremely fit as a demonstration of the superb temperament and attitude that conquered his frustration at Middlesbrough.

However, this is not why Wednesday went to huge lengths to sign him. And while Rhodes himself stands tall at 6’ 1”, his career to date suggests he thrives best alongside a more physical, bustling presence. At Huddersfield, this was often Joe Garner or Lee Novak. At Blackburn, the perfect foil was almost always 6’ 4” Rudy Gestede.

If you apply this to Wednesday’s array of strikers then, for me, Steven Fletcher (when back from suspension) or Gary Hooper would appear to suit best. Or Sam Winnall, very suddenly an outside bet after such an impressive opening impact but potentially a vigorous performer who needs to assert himself more than ever before. I feel sorrier for Atdhe Nuhiu, one of the most wholehearted players you could wish to see, albeit that a limited range of talent appears to have marginalised him from a complex equation.

Then there’s the question of where best to harness the must-pick match-winning quality of Forestieri. Personally, I’d favour the left of midfield pushing on, where he shone so much last season, though this would almost certainly not be his own preference.

Of course, there is more than one way to get the best out of key players and the innovative Carvalhal, now blessed with so many options, will have his own ideas.

One thing that did seem clear to me at Blackburn, albeit that the execution was poor, was an intention to mix-up the style to get the ball forward earlier in some moves – as evidenced by the manner of the goal.

Carvalhal dropped his shoulder and left me on my backside afterwards when I asked a question about this!

He will not have wanted to alert opponents, just as he talked down the swoop for Rhodes 24 hours in advance while Villa boss Steve Bruce was playing it up, presumably to mask his move for Scott Hogan.

Always factor in the smoke and mirrors, folks.