Alan Biggs: History suggests success in sticking by an XI
Of all the sticks with which people sometimes try to beat Carlos Carvalhal , it's the one likeliest to snap first. Too much team tinkering, too many changes.
For that to stick, in a different sense, Sheffield Wednesday would need to have finished outside the play-offs in the last two seasons.
Is anybody suggesting Wednesday’s squad has been better than finishes of sixth place and fourth? And if Carvalhal achieves similar this season – they are now sixth and undefeated since the opening day - then you’d have to say it’s at least par for the course.
However, a startling statement from a former manager at the club’s 150th birthday dinner got me thinking. Howard Wilkinson, assessing the instant impact he made with promotion to the top flight back in 1984, said he picked his team on a Monday and worked with it through the week. “You could do that in those days,” he reflected wryly. Wilkinson did not elaborate.
He didn’t have to. As I recall, that rampaging team mostly picked itself, though that’s not the point.
If any manager did that these days, the world and his wife would know the line-up by the middle of the week, including, of course, the opposition. Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody. In that respect, things were no different back in the 1980s. What’s changed is the advent of social media so that, instead of a bit of gossip in pubs, secrets filter out to the masses.
In fact, there are very few secrets in football. So squad rotation is not just about playing horses for courses and keeping players on the hop, it’s also about springing a surprise on opponents.
A pity, but you really can’t see a return to those idyllic times ; all squads are larger, all have to be maximised, players kept happy.
That said, there is a case for Carvalhal knowing his best line-up and sticking closely to it, something I feel he has been more inclined to do since the second half of last season but has been unable to consistently because of injuries. And significantly, he did just that on Tuesday, keeping the same eleven who beat Nottingham Forest 3-1 for the closer shave of a 2-1 win over Brentford.
This leads to a mentality of Wednesday imposing themselves on other teams rather than being overly concerned with what is ranged against them.
With the quality of player at the club, the Owls can afford to be more attacking in my view.
But would you play the same team for the third time in a punishing week at Neil Warnock’s Cardiff on Saturday? That’s where 2017 differs from 1984, you suspect.