Sheffield Wednesday, the biggest foulers in the Championship? Well, yes, according to a surprise stat this column stumbled upon ahead of the midweek 0-0 draw with Brighton.
They’d given away 196 free-kicks apparently, now past the 200 mark. Allowing that you can do anything with figures, I’m going for a positive from this negative. If evidence were needed that a new team, with an overseas influx including a Portuguese head coach, is far from a fancy foreign outfit then this is it.
More came on hearing centre back Tom Lees talk penetratingly after the Brighton game about how Carlos Carvalhal was refreshingly different from the foreign coaches who are “too proud to accept the English way.”
Carlos’s embracing of it is reflected in a foul stat he won’t exactly be proud of, either, but which demonstrates a balanced strategy underpinned by a simply outstanding midfield all-rounder in Sam Hutchinson, whose avoiding of his customary yellow card on Tuesday – and thence a ban – is a fine line Wednesday must continue to tread to keep that mix intact.
In many ways, the former Chelsea trainee embodies what Wednesday are about even more than the flair players they have recruited, several of whom are struggling to break in from the fringes of a deep and talented squad. Hutchinson stands out for the bite to his game as midfield anchorman but he’s also an excellent link player with a fine range of passing.
While more quality on the ball has provided the uplift this season, Wednesday are a tight and hungry unit when not in possession. They have married the strengths of last term with the new attacking edge of this one.
In short, they are equipped to compete in the Championship, as matching hitherto leaders Brighton showed.
The desired victory was lacking but it’s now 11 matches unbeaten in all competitions going into a highly winnable game at Charlton where Carvalhal will again look to the depth of his resources after a sapping sequence ahead of the international break.
Assistant coach Lee Bullen puts his finger on it right here: “Carlos clearly did a heck of a lot of homework. Historically, the teams who’ve done well have had a spine of players who know the Championship.
“The players have understood what he’s after and that’s been reflected in results.”