Fernando Forestieri's Sheffield Wednesday return at last provides Jos Luhukay with a selection headache he'll be delighted to have

The crowd chanted his name, even when warming up. He nutmegged a player, tortured a few more in a memorable cameo, then capped it off with a brilliant goal.

Monday, 2nd April 2018, 12:19 am
Updated Monday, 2nd April 2018, 12:26 am
Fernando Forestieri curls in a free kick on his return to the Sheffield Wednesday side

Fernando Forestieri was back with a bang.

The tricky forward provided enough skill and flair in about 18 minutes against Preston to have Sheffield Wednesday fans musing over what might have been had Forestieri not spent the majority of this season recovering from knee surgery.

Fernando Forestieri celebrates scoring against Preston on his first appearance since August

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Jos Luhukay was certainly happy to see him back in the side. Wednesday under the Dutchman's watch have been up and down in terms of performances - largely down, it has to be said - but even in the good games, 'entertaining' is not be a word that would be chosen to describe what was on show.

Hillsborough was visibly lifted by Forestieri's eased reintroduction. He certainly looked fit enough and a burst through the middle late in the game suggested there was no lingering fears over his injury.

Now comes the somewhat tricky part.

The form he showed on Friday - albeit over a very short period - would suggest that Forestieri must start soon, though it might not be against Sunderland on Monday, given the manager's tendency to be cautious over players returning from injury. Where, then, does he fit into Luhukay's tactics and formation?

Fernando Forestieri celebrates with team mate Atdhe Nuhiu

Forestieri it was reported early this season, had indicated that he didn't feel comfortable playing in a wide role, under Carlos Carvalhal, but that wouldn't be an issue with Luhukay, who currently plays with wing-backs and the Argentinian certainly isn't in that positional bracket.

So should the current boss stick with his formation, there are potentially three places for Forestieri to slot into.

He could go into a central midfield three. Luhukay, understandably prefers one holding midfielder so one of Sam Hutchinson, David Jones and Joey Pelupessy sits in there and Barry Bannan isn't likely to be dropped. That means a place on either side for Forestieri. That deeper role, however, wouldn't play to Forestieri's strengths and he's not exactly known for his consistent defensive discipline.

You might argue that it worked OK on Friday when he came on to replace Bannan. However, at that point, Preston were pressing for an equaliser, leaving gaps in midfield and the idea was to give the ball to Forestieri and have him carry it up the other end. He wouldn't ordinarily get that much space in the middle of the pitch.

Fernando Forestieri celebrates his goal

This option would also mean shifting Adam Reach back onto the left, a position he is obviously able to play in, but he has arguably been Wednesday's best player this season and the majority of his better performances have come in a more central midfield role, or in behind the striker. Would we see the best of him again while stationed out wide?

Forestieri's best position, it could be argued, is as a 'number 10', slightly deeper than the natural front man. That, however, would bring about the ditching of one of two players who have thrived under Luhukay's stewardship.

Lucas Joao has scored seven goals since Carvalhal left on Christmas Eve and turned the game when coming off the bench on Friday, with a goal and an assist. He probably would have started the match had there not been two games in quick succession coming up. It's no coincidence that Joao's performances have improved since being given the confidence of knowing that he is wanted and is a key component of this team. Would being dropped at this stage, knowing he is down the pecking order again, wipe away that confidence?

So keep Joao in the side and drop the other one? Imagine at the beginning of this season wondering whether to put Forestieri or Atdhe Nuhiu in the team? You'd have been laughed at for even contemplating such an idea. Now, if any player deserves to maintain his place, it's 'the big man'.

Fernando Forestieri scored on his return to the side after recovering from knee surgery

Nuhiu is currently in his best form for Wednesday and Friday's contribution against Preston - that second goal is one of the Championship's best this season - shows he is shaking off the tag of a striker who's merely there to rough up defenders.

All of this has provided Luhukay with a quandary. However, given the fact that his options have been severely limited since joining the club midway through the campaign, it's a question for which he will be delighted to try and find a solution.

And, with the severe injury situation making it hard to judge the boss in his three months in charge, how he approaches this might provide Sheffield Wednesday fans with an insight into Luhukay's real managerial mindset.

Fernando Forestieri celebrates scoring against Preston on his first appearance since August
Fernando Forestieri celebrates with team mate Atdhe Nuhiu
Fernando Forestieri celebrates his goal
Fernando Forestieri scored on his return to the side after recovering from knee surgery