Carlos Carvalhal has brushed aside suggestions that Sheffield Wednesday’s midfield is too lightweight to thrive at Championship level.
Some observers believe the Owls have been overpowered, particularly in the centre, in their recent defeats to Burton Albion and Leeds United.
It was also a criticism levelled at Wednesday after Carvalhl’s side lost to Hull City in the Play-Off final last May, with Tom Huddlestone and Mohamed Diamé dominating that department.
Under Carvalhal, the Owls have earned rave reviews for their stylish passing football but his midfield quartet is on the small size. Barry Bannan, Ross Wallace and Almen Abdi are all under six foot and concerns are growing that Wednesday struggle to cope with teams who adopt a more physical approach.
Carvalhal told The Star: “It depends what you mean by physical. Barry Bannan is a very physical player with the way he moves and escapes the opponents. He’s clever and fast the way that he plays. It makes him a very strong guy.
“If you understand physical like rugby, I agree. But if you understand physical to play football I believe Barry and Kieran are two of the strongest midfielders in the competition.
“I don’t think we have lost the games due to the physical side. When we lose, of course maybe people start talking about this and this but I never put things down to the physical situation.
“We have guys who are not physical in size but are strong. There is no player in the Championship who runs more than Kieran Lee. He runs 13km per game. That is physical.”
Despite two slip-ups, Carvalhal has vowed not to abandon his principles, citing Barcelona as an example.
“I’m not a coach of rugby,” said Carvalhal. “I’m a football coach.
“Barcelona win everything and they play with Xavi, [Andrés] Iniesta and [Lionel] Messi. Do you say ‘let’s put a physical guy in and put these small, talented guys out as we need rugby players on the pitch?’
“It depends on the mentality. If you want to play direct football and win second balls like the past, it is an option. If you want to pay a ticket to see football, you must select the players to play football.”
Carvalhal is expected to freshen up his midfield at Brentford as Wednesday look to halt their poor run of form. David Jones is in contention to make his first Owls start since arriving for an undisclosed fee from Burnley. It could be Wallace who drops out to accommodate Jones.
Whatever team he fields at Griffin Park, Carvalhal expects a strong reaction.
“Brentford are a very good side; I think they are better this season than last year,” he said. “They play with quality and have good players.
“We did a lot of correct things against Leeds. If we play with more soul and heart, the result will take care of itself.”