Alan Biggs: Players AND Carlos Carvalhal must share blame for Sheffield Wednesday rut
Managers are ultimately responsible for the way a team performs.
Equally, when instant choices are made by players on the field managers are not in control. At Sheffield Wednesday the line is blurred but the focus is clear. Currently something has to be wrong. But what?
Wrong choices by players for too long. Not necessarily - or always - wrong in terms of losing possession and therein lies one of the problems. Wrong when it comes to acting positively to win a game. Too many comfortable choices, passing on – literally – responsibility to others. Hence too many draws, three dreary ones in a row. And draws kill you. Six games unbeaten actually equates to drifting six points off the top six.
Which is far from absolving the head coach. It’s his job to set or inspire attitude and expectations. After the latest stalemate at Reading he was honest enough to admit that the first half plan, perhaps disappointingly in these circumstances, was to stifle. And yet as a rule, and certainly at home, I find it impossible to believe that Carlos Carvalhal actually wants to see ponderous, pedestrian, predictable football or for his team to start with the handbrake on.
Carvalhal has repeatedly refuted that, admitting Wednesday have to play faster and better. Maybe the message has been lost in talking too much and side-tracking to issues many fans see as excuses. Also, in the barely deserved 2-2 draw at Ipswich, it wasn’t for me just about individual errors but more the apparent state of mind of the team. Happy, it looked, to stroll out a sterile first half and only responding to twice going behind.
If the Owls need these sort of shocks on the field then arguably they need them off it as well. Six changes at Reading was a start. Carvalhal is a lovely guy, an engaging character and, I still maintain, a good manager who treats players the way he liked to be treated during his career. And Wednesday are stock full of experienced pros of a status entitling respect.
But (whether or not he has much control of overall transfer policy) I wonder if it’s helpful for Carvalhal to indicate there will be little movement in the January window. Does it send out the wrong signals to players who need jolting? Then again, how to shift any of many players on long, lucrative contracts?
Something in the chemistry of the team, or the psyche of it, can’t be right for the Owls to keep producing such turgid performances. There was a moment in the first half at Ipswich that seemed to sum it up. A promising situation on the right-side by-line – if the ball had been kept in play. Instead, with two attackers on the six yard line, it was allowed to run out for a corner which, as so often, produced nothing.
That scenario is not unusual but it spoke of taking soft options, shunning the positive. And where do you start with passing sideways and backwards?
Frankly, for all the restlessness of the atmosphere, I think this Hillsborough crowd will forgive a lot, mistakes included, if Wednesday, to a man, simply give it a go on their return home against struggling Hull City this weekend.
Carvalhal can’t do it for them, much as a change in formation remains a valid argument while ever 4-4-2 splutters. Knowing what this team CAN do – as at Aston Villa - is the main indictment.
When things aren’t right it’s rarely as simple as one thing being wrong. Solutions are about taking individual and collective responsibility – and coming together. Before it’s too late.