It’s not always what’s new that gives you the edge. Sometimes it’s keeping what you’ve got. That, for me, was what was best about Sheffield Wednesday’s opening league game.
It was the reassurance of last season’s groundwork being firmly in place. Plus confirmation of quality in all areas of the pitch and, above all, the team spirit being undiluted by continuing improvements to the squad.
This last one is perhaps the hardest trick to perform. It was the hallmark of Carlos Carvalhal’s team building of last season and, on the evidence of a deserved victory over Aston Villa, it won’t be sacrificed to further additions, no matter how high profile.
But nothing is more important than maintaining the whole feel-good atmosphere surrounding the club, a fragile commodity if results wobble after expectations have been raised.
By winning in front of a vibrant 30,000 crowd Wednesday kept that momentum on tap.
In a division looking even more competitive this time, it would be foolish to draw further conclusions from a single game and Norwich, my tip for automatic after dropping down with a little changed promotion squad, will be a very meaningful test on Saturday. But you’d be surprised if the Owls didn’t mount another strong, maybe stronger, challenge.
New players make headlines but ones you can trust and rely on make teams.
All but two of last Sunday’s starting line-up fell into that category right down to the winning goal coming from a truly gifted match winner in Fernando Forestieiri whose cheeky pursuit by Derby is much likelier to lead to a new deal, more than matching recently rewarded Tom Lees and Keiren Westwood, than a move Wednesday will block.
So what to add to the mix? Besides the need for covering bodies across the back line, you could see in a few short minutes, up to his unfortunate head injury, what Steven Fletcher can infuse as a strong line leader with a good goal record.
Almen Abdi, as a drifting midfielder, is something a little different too.
Where I still feel there is room for improvement is in a lack of raw pace, albeit supplemented by strong raiding full backs and Jeremy Helan on the bench. But one solution is the sheer variety of Wednesday’s approach, a point tellingly noted by beaten Villa boss Roberto Di Matteo.
They can go long or short, often mixing the two. With the players for either option, there are goals in the team from many positions, just as before.
I stand by my slight Twitter gripe about Carvalhal setting the tone for a shock EFL Cup defeat at Cambridge by complaining of fixture scheduling post Villa.
Agree with the point about Leeds, Villa and QPR being spared playing on Sunday and Tuesday, just wonder: is it wise to raise it publicly? But seven other Championship clubs befell similar upsets on Tuesday. Sadly, it’s the way of the modern world. Everything else about the Owls is upbeat right now.