Suggestion for Jos Luhukay: Don’t dig a hole for yourself over Fernando Forestieri, just put him in it.
Very soon now, any time in fact, another Sheffield Wednesday manager will wrestle with where to play the club’s most naturally gifted attacker. The answer perhaps is a position where he’s not been used previously – and the new boss’s preferred system makes this far more possible than his predecessor’s.
First thing to address, though, is the suspicion in some quarters that Forestieri, with his maverick’s reputation and style, won’t suit Luhukay’s supposedly regimented methods.
But there was nothing more regimented than Carlos Carvalhal’s dogged persistence with 4-4-2 and, going purely on facial expression, I have to report the Dutchman beamed a rare smile when he recently relayed news of Forestieri’s imminent return. It looked genuine enough to me.
Carvalhal had only two places to go when it came to harnessing the little man’s talents, though in fairness there was a real fusing together during their first season at Hillsborough.
It was either wide left, where Forestieri gave some of his best displays without ever liking the role, or as part of a front two, which ironically he preferred but where he often flopped. Don’t know about you, but I’ve always seen him as a potential ace in the hole, so to speak. That position just behind a pair of strikers. Carvalhal couldn’t bend his 4-4-2 to this because it would have left his midfield light. Luhukay has much more scope with his 3-5-2. Let’s call it a tweak to 3-4-1-2. Is that the future for next season?
I can see a triangle here linking Forestieri with a deep-lying predator in Gary Hooper and a strong line leader. The key to operating it would be successful returns for Sam Hutchinson and Barry Bannan. With those two in central midfield flanked by wing backs Wednesday have strength and creativity. Or with Adam Reach in the centre, a player adaptable enough for a wide role if not. Kieran Lee, fingers crossed after his long lay off, would be another strong option, while George Boyd has shown an aptitude for wing back.
Wednesday are hardly short on quality in the middle of the park, allowing maybe for a shedding of those on the fringe. The point is there’s a potentially strong base for springing Forestieri into that role between midfield and attack. He can use his skill and pace to link and strike from that position.
One thing there shouldn’t be, for a while at least, is transfer speculation. Forestieri’s value will have dipped with his lay-off, arguably a blessing in some ways in silencing all the talk. I’ll admit that, based on the amounts rumoured to have been tabled in the past, rising to £13m, I’d have sold him at that point in the cause of rebuilding. But there’s no point in such a discussion now. We know what he can do, let’s see him do it and play him to best effect.