Sheffield Wednesday: Time for this Owls squad to really start proving their worth
They are out of form, giving away soft goals and clinging on to the final Championship play-off place.
But Sheffield Wednesday remain in control of their own fate heading into the last two months of an eventful campaign.
Fulham had two opportunities in the space of five days to oust the Owls from the top six, but both Blackburn Rovers and Wolverhampton Wanderers took points off the Cottagers.
The cold hard truth, though, is Wednesday have to start performing better and not keep relying on favours from elsewhere. It’s high time the Owls start delivering.
The ‘virus of negativity’, which head coach Carlos Carvalhal has tried to banish, continues to hover over the Hillsborough outfit.
When addressing the media on Friday night in the wake of their 2-0 home loss to promotion rivals Reading, Carvalhal cut a tired, drained figure. He described last week as “one of the hardest weeks” of his managerial career.
Over the international break, Carvalhal has to pick himself and the team up.
Wednesday created enough chances to win against the Royals but a potent combination of poor finishing and top quality goalkeeping by Ali Al Habsi kept them at bay.
Throughout the ups and downs last Friday, the fans stayed with the team. They more than did their bit. They cheered and tried to cajole the players on.
But it is the same old story. The Owls’ inability to dictate and take matches by the scruff of the neck is consistently coming back to haunt them.
Former footballer turned pundit Keith Andrews hit the nail on the head last month. He praised the job Carvalhal did in leading the side to the Play-Off Final at Wembley last May but claimed Wednesdayites “should be getting more” this time around.
“I think they [Wednesday] should be doing more,” he said. “They should be cemented in the top six with the money they have spent on transfer fees and wages.
“They have got teams like Reading and Huddersfield in there who are punching above their weight.
“We should be expecting more from this set of players and this set of staff.”
Andrews is right. Wednesday’s supporters travel in their numbers home and away and pay good money to watch the team. They deserve better than what has been served up. Their way of playing has not been anywhere near as entertaining. They have been more workmanlike than spectacular, grinding out results.
Owner Dejphon Chansiri has pumped millions of pounds into their recruitment drive but where is the progression? Wednesday have the same amount of points on board as they did at this stage last year, despite spending lavish amounts of money on individuals such as Almen Abdi and Adam Reach.
And striker Jordan Rhodes is joining on a permanent basis for a club-record fee in the summer.
Chansiri has invested heavily in the playing squad but Wednesday haven’t kicked on. There have been few success stories from the 2016/17 recruitment drive.
Injuries have hindered team selection. All sides would find it hard without several first-team regulars and the Owls have struggled to replace Tom Lees, Sam Hutchinson, Kieran Lee, Gary Hooper and Fernando Forestieri. The quintet played major roles in the march to Wembley.
“We believe we will recover some players in this international break who are injured and will be ready for the final eight games to try and achieve a good position,” said Carvalhal.
Nonetheless, four defeats in six matches is not remotely promotion-winning form. They are going backwards at a critical point.
Carvalhal said: “The Championship is not finished yet to us. We don’t give up.
“I don’t want to talk too much about the past. I must look to the future. We have eight cup finals left.”
Now is not the time for knee-jerk reactions. The time to judge Wednesday is in May. There could still be 11 more matches to go in their season.