Alan Biggs' Sheffield Wednesday Column: Why Owls' survivors still have such a massive part to play
Here’s this column today freshly applauding two mainstays of the Carlos Carvalhal era ... having said so often in the past that this Sheffield Wednesday squad is long overdue an overhaul.
Confused? Yes, me too. There were conflicting emotions as Barry Bannan and Kieran Lee linked up again last Saturday to fashion arguably the Owls’ best attacking performance under Garry Monk.
The team tactics were different, more direct, but Lee’s welcome return from long-term injury is a throwback to the Carvalhal team that finished top six in 2016 and 2017. Since when I think most of us would agree that the squad needed more change than it has undergone.
So you can see the conflict. But the reality provides no choice – at least not until the January window and beyond – and what’s never been in doubt is that we are talking good players.
Others who’ve been contributing well from the class of Carlos include Sam Hutchinson, Steven Fletcher, Liam Palmer and Keiren Westwood, despite last weekend’s double blip.
We also know the form Adam Reach is more than capable of rekindling – and Fernando Forestieri, if he can catch fire consistently.
There may be eleven contracts up next summer but for this season Wednesday remain reliant on this group, whose motivation to earn new ones should be a powerful factor.
It’s a last shot for them in terms of promotion also.
For all the frustration of recent dropped points, this side is well in touch with the leading group and capable of staying competitive, albeit that the ageing nature of the squad might impose a physical challenge as the season wears on.
And I thought that in last Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Swansea at Hillsborough, Monk’s team played the sort of open, aggressive, front-foot football Wednesday followers want to see.
The performance didn’t get the result it deserved, largely self-inflicted by errors and missed chances, but it looked a potent 4-4-2 with two wingers, including a much-improved Josh Murphy, servicing a front two.
At the heart of this was Bannan, lying deep and spreading the play, and Lee darting near enough everywhere, including providing those runs in support of the attack that have been sorely missed.
It from one of these that Lee set up Forestieri’s goal, sparking a breathless finale.
The balance looked good, with a missing link thrown in.
When we spoke, Monk admitted it had given him much to ponder after Hutchinson had been temporarily sidelined.
“Midfield is one of our strongest areas,” he said. “The five lads we have (including Massimo Luongo and Joey Pelupessy) all bring a different skill set and a different type of play.
“That’s great to have as a manager and great for them as it’s so competitive. It’s something we need to use as we’re about to come into our busiest period. Everyone will need to be available and ready. Hopefully that position (midfield) can be a big thing for us.
“With momentum, and a lot of football to play, we can put ourselves into good positions again.”
Plenty to play for.