Chris Holt Comment: Why Almen Abdi could be like a new signing for Sheffield Wednesday

Owls goalscorer from the weekend, Almen Abdi celebrates with Barry Bannan
Owls goalscorer from the weekend, Almen Abdi celebrates with Barry Bannan
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It's quite easy to forget that when Almen Abdi arrived at Sheffield Wednesday in July, the transfer was regarded as something of a coup for the Owls.

Abdi had played a pivotal role helping Watford earn promotion to the top flight two years ago and then last season, the creative midfielder made 38 appearances for the Hornets, with 32 of those coming in the Premier League.

So with around £4million being spent on taking the 30 year old to Hillsborough, many sat up and took notice. This was a signing that showed Owls chairman Dejphon Chansiri meant business; prepared to dig deep into his pockets and back head coach Carlos Carvalhal's attempts to have Wednesday's feasting on the banquet of English football's top table once again.

With respect to Abdi, it hasn't quite turned out as planned.

The Swiss international scored in his first appearance in a Wednesday shirt - the third in a pre-season friendly 3-0 win over Port Vale at Hillsborough just before the campaign kicked off. Even taking into account the quality of the opposition, it was an impressive introduction, but after that things would begin to turn sour.

Abdi performed reasonably well in the opening weekend win over Aston Villa and then struggled to make his mark on the game as the Owls drew 0-0 with Norwich City.

Almen Abdi celebrates opening the scoring against Nottingham Forest

Almen Abdi celebrates opening the scoring against Nottingham Forest

After that it began to unravel. He was hooked at half time in the surprise defeat to Burton Albion and again as Wednesday lost to Leeds United at Hillsborough and left out of the starting line-up altogether in the draw away to Brentford. He lasted an hour against Wigan, a little over an hour against Birmingham and then benched again for the visit of Nottingham Forest, where he managed 25 minutes.

Then injury troubles kicked. Abdi spent a month out in November; made a return against Rotherham in the middle of December and wasn't seen again until the start of this month, having come off early with a shoulder injury. All the while, Carvalhal batted off questions regarding the player.. Naturally fans thought there was more to it and social media was rife with speculation and conspiracies and every query put to the head coach merely brought about an answer of 'still injured'.

However, there was a revealing comment from the Portuguese after a triumphant return to the side in Saturday's win over Nottingham Forest.

“It was important that he performed,” said Carvalhal. “Almen had an injury before but he has trained well, especially in the last three weeks. I’m not saying Almen didn’t train well before but something changed in his head and he is training much better. When the players are training and performing well, they will, of course, have the chance to play."

Almen Abdi in action against Birmingham earlier in the season

Almen Abdi in action against Birmingham earlier in the season

It will take Abdi to come out and explain exactly what happened in that injury-hit period and that's not likely to happen.

However, if Saturday is anything to go by, then he will be more than happy to just put it behind him. At the City Ground, the six-times capped international was superb in the middle of the park for Wednesday, when he finally got to grips with the game.

His only action this calendar year have been cameos from the bench against Wigan and Birmingham. He came on in the final 10 minutes in each.

Owls fans are desperate to see him do well and in the opening stages on Saturday it looked as though Abdi may have passed up the opportunity he'd been handed. However, as it turned out, the early creases in his game, no doubt brought about by a lack of sharpness, were ironed out pretty quickly. Any rustiness bashed away by a hammer of a shot which opened the scoring for Wednesday.

Almen Abdi picked up a shoulder injury against Rotherham in December

Almen Abdi picked up a shoulder injury against Rotherham in December

The volley was stunning and from then on he strolled around the pitch like lord of the manor - this was his domain and he was in firm control.

Now, having been sidelined for so long, in Abdi, Carvalhal has a genuinely fresh option and one that couldn't come at a more important period. The player's experience and class cannot be under-valued at this stage of the campaign as he provides that surety in the middle of the pitch, dictating the play and offering a calm, composed presence that can only rub off on a team that too many times this season have been left hanging on in the final stages of games.

This is like a new signing for Carvalhal. It may have taken more than half the season for the deal to be secured and, even then, 'one swallow etc...'

But an fit, in-form, performing Abdi offers Wednesday an option like no other they currently have. He could well turn out to be one of the most important men in a blue shirt over the next couple of months.