Dom Howson's Sheffield Wednesday column: How Steve Bruce’s attack could look next season

It is a line Steve Bruce has trotted out multiple times over the past two decades in football management.

Tuesday, 16th April 2019, 5:08 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th April 2019, 4:00 pm

"You're only as good as your strikers," he said.

One thing is for sure; Bruce has plethora of attacking options to call upon at Hillsborough. He currently has six players vying for two starting spots.

Some people think that level of competition can only be a good thing, claiming it keeps everybody on their toes. Not Bruce.

Sheffield Wednesday striker Gary Hooper

Sign up to our Sheffield Wednesday newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Speaking at his press call on Thursday morning, Bruce said: "We have six strikers, if Jordan (Rhodes) comes back in the summer we have seven. That’s not healthy."

As Bruce was keen to point out, it is nigh-on-impossible trying to keep that many strikers happy.

Bruce knows his squad is top-heavy and he has already expressed a desire to trim Wednesday's forward line as part of the rebuilding process. A summer of change beckons.

If I was in Bruce's shoes, I would retain the services of Steven Fletcher, Gary Hooper, Jordan Rhodes and Lucas Joao.

Fletcher has been one of Wednesday's top performers this season. His aerial prowess and hold up play is vital to the way the Owls play. He is one of the first names on the teamsheet.

We all know what Hooper is capable of at this level. He is a class act. A matchwinner.

Injuries have plagued Hooper over the last 18 months. But he has returned to the first-team fold in the last month and shown fleeting glimpses of his quality.

I expect the Owls to offer Hooper a new contract. Hopefully Hooper will opt to prolong his Hillsborough stay.

There is no disputing the fact that Rhodes' career has gone backwards since 2016. He has only scored 19 times in the last three campaigns.

Are Rhodes' best days behind him? Bruce doesn't think so.

"I can’t see any reason why (he can't get back to his best)," said Bruce. "He’s a decent age.

"He’s somebody I’ve always liked as a player, that’s for sure. If you look at his goalscoring record, it’s second to none."

Bruce, of course, has tried to sign Rhodes on two previous occasions so it would be a major surprise if the former Manchester United defender doesn't throw him one more Owls lifeline. His astute man-management skills could hold the key to getting Rhodes' career back on track.

Then there is the enigma that is Joao. He is frustratingly inconsistent but offers Wednesday's attack something different with his pace and unpredictability.

For me, Joao is a talent worth persevering with. Yes, there are times when he flatters to deceive as a starter but he is a handy attacking option to have up your sleeve. Joao is a very good as an impact substitute.

As Wednesday look to remain within the confines of Profitability and Sustainability regulations, offloading the likes of Fernando Forestieri, Sam Winnall and Atdhe Nuhiu would potentially give them more room to manoeuvre. The trio are all entering the final years of their contracts.

Forestieri has not produced his best form in a long time while Winnall and Nuhiu have barely featured under Bruce.

"In management you have to make big decisions, and that’s what you are judged upon," said Bruce. "Sometimes, they are not popular, and that will probably be the situation we will be in."​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

It is quality, not quantity, that Wednesday need to push on next season.