Pretty average is how I would sum up Fernando Forestieri’s start to the campaign.
The little forward never has been, or probably ever will be, a prolific goal-scorer but he has so many other strings to his bow. He is Wednesday’s main creative spark. The clever link between the midfield and forward line.
When he is at his best, he is relentless in his pressing and closing down of defenders and he barely ever gives the ball away when in possession. His fancy footwork flummoxed so many teams last year and he was a key figure in the Owls coming agonisingly close to ending their 16-year top-flight exile.
But two goals in nine appearances this term is a desperately disappointing return for a player with Forestieri’s abilities.
Against Leeds United, Brentford and Birmingham City, Forestieri fluffed his lines in front of goal at key moments in those matches. The team might have picked up more than one point out of a possible nine on offer had Forestieri taken his chances.
In Forestieri’s defence, Wednesday’s finishing has not been up to scratch full stop in the opening two months. It is, after all, a team game.
The fact is people expect so much from Forestieri, perhaps even more so following his well-documented off the field actions. The trouble is he looks short on confidence and some of his decision-making in the final third is letting him down. Forestieri is a genuine matchwinner but his form has dipped.
We are not even a quarter of the way through the campaign and boss Carlos Carvalhal has benched his star man three times. Forestieri only featured once as a sub in the entire 2015/16 season. He was a regular starter.
Some supporters questioned the wisdom of Carvalhal’s decision to leave out Forestieri on Tuesday but the Owls claimed maximum points at Blackburn Rovers to halt their poor run of results on the road. Carvalhal stuck to his guns, introduced Forestieri as a second half sub, and Wednesday produced a solid, professional performance.
One train of thought is that Carvalhal is trying to manage Forestieri’s workload. He doesn’t want him to burn out and is aiming to keep him fresh for the gruelling, Championship marathon.
Or you could argue Carvalhal is looking to get a positive reaction out of his “special killer” by not starting him.
Carvalhal’s decision also sends out a strong message to the rest of the group that they have to carry on performing to stay in the team.
What Wednesday have shown is that they can win without Forestieri at his mesmerising best. Just imagine how much more potent the Owls will be when Forestieri rediscovers his mojo. Now that is a frightening prospect for the rest of the division.