Sheffield Wednesday: Old guard help Owls get campaign back on track
His decision to go back to the old guard almost worked.
Had Sheffield Wednesday held on for three valuable and much-need points at Fulham, boss Carlos Carvalhal would have justifiably received plenty of plaudits for his team selection and the tactics he employed at Craven Cottage.
But Scott Malone’s late equaliser took some of the shine off a much-improved Owls performance last weekend.
So close yet so far away. That, in a nutshell, has been Wednesday’s season.
Although he was left cursing the Owls’ late defensive lapse in concentration which cost them maximum points, Carvalhal claimed the side can take big confidence from the display.
Following back-to-back defeats, Carvalhal believed it was the “correct option” to revert back to the team who over-achieved in reaching the Championship Play-Off Final last May. Wednesday built their success on organisation, industry and attacking flair.
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It was a big selection call by Carvalhal to ditch the vast majority of his summer signings. Only club-record recruit Adam Reach kept his place in the starting eleven.
David Jones and Steven Fletcher were brought on as second half substitutes, Daniel Pudil missed the trip due to minor knock Will Buckley and Vincent Sasso were unused subs while Jake Kean, Urby Emanuelson and Almen Abdi failed to be included in the match-day squad.
Experienced campaigners Glenn Loovens and Ross Wallace returned to the line-up and Fernando Forestieri also impressed after being recalled to their forward line.
Loovens renewed his defensive partnership with Tom Lees while Wallace gave the team better balance on the right flank, with Barry Bannan looking back to his old self drifting inside from the left.
Having converted Sam Hutchinson into a centre-half this season, it was a surprise to see the former Chelsea youngster deployed in the defensive midfield position again. However, it is a role Hutchinson admirably performed last term and he put in a solid shift against Fulham. He was taken off before the hour mark for tactical reasons, with Carvalhal concerned over Hutchinson picking up a second yellow card.
As a pairing, Forestieri and Gary Hooper caused all sorts of problems to Fulham’s defence before Hooper was forced off with a hamstring injury.
Carvalhal told The Star: “It was the correct option (to go back to last year’s team). It was not a question of last season but about what we thought was the best team to win the game.
“Of course, we understand that the players know each other and have worked with each other over a year. They know the dynamic. The connection was good like we expected.”
It was an encouraging return to form but it is victories the Owls need to stay in touch with the top-six.