Sheffield Wednesday: How Lucas Joao has transformed himself from a bit-part player into key man
The statistics speak for themselves.Â
Striker Lucas Joao has been given a new lease of life under Wednesday manager Jos Luhukay, averaging almost a goal every two matches.
Joao is enjoying his change of fortunes and has bagged three goals in two Championship starts since signing a contract extension until the summer of 2021.
The Portuguese ace delivered a matchwinning performance in the narrow home victory over Ipswich Town, hitting a double either side of half-time.
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He continued his good run of form at the Madejski Stadium a week later, curling in a stunning long range right foot shot to help Luhukay's men secure a 2-1 win against struggling Reading in their final match before the first international break. It took Joao's goal tally to 10 in 24 matches under Luhukay, who has played a major role in resurrecting his Owls career.
Joao has gone from a bit part player into a key component of Wednesday's first-team.
Marco Matias, Joao's fellow countryman, told The Star: "I'm happy for Lucas. He's working very hard and doing well. He gives us something different with his pace."
The 25-year-old, who is closing in 100 Owls appearances, is capable of terrorising defences at this level with his pace, power and trickery.Â
Joao is likely to be part of their three-pronged attack when Luhukay's side host Stoke City next weekend.
"Lucas is a good player," said defender Ash Baker, who earned his first Wales Under-21s cap on Friday evening. "I hate marking him in training. He's a nightmare to mark. He's so big and is unpredictable.Â
"He took his goal really well against Reading but we see that in training all the time. He's a great finisher.
"Hopefully he can carry on doing well and scoring goals. If wen can keep him scoring goals, it will give us a good chance of doing well."
Wednesday are in fine fettle after three straight league victories. They made hard work of it against the Royals but the win lifted them into the top half of the table.
Matias said: "We are feeling amazing because we are acting like a team. We are helping each other which is the most important thing.
"To get three points at Reading was our top goal. I'm happy and so are the team. I think we are in a good way."
Things looked a little ominous after the Owls' miserable display and defeat at Brentford last month. The knives were out, in some quarters, for Luhukay.
But Wednesday refused to panic. They stuck together and turned things around.Â
And there is also a nice blend of youth and experience in the side. Luhukay has promoted a number of academy players, including Baker, Jordan Thorniley and Matt Penney, into the first-team set-up. The future looks bright.
"The senior lads are great," said Baker. "They really help us, telling us what to do and helping us through things.
"I don't see why we can't achieve what we want as a team with the younger players involved."
Now only one point separates the Owls from the play-off positions.
Baker said: "Everyone believes in each other and the gaffer. I think if we all work hard and help each other out we can achieve anything and can beat anyone.
"If we carry on playing the way we are playing, anything is possible. We are only four points off the top."
The stats certainly suggest Wednesday are a club on the rise.