Sheffield Wednesday: Jones must fill Owls midfield

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SHEFFIELD Wednesday’s midfield is under a more intense spotlight than usual as David Prutton starts a two-match ban today and Ross Barkley begins life with Leeds.

Any hopes that Dave Jones may have had of bringing back Barkley on loan from Everton have been dashed by his move to Elland Road.

The immediate concern is to fill the gap left by Prutton’s suspension, activated by his reaching of the 10-booking mark.

The chief contenders appear to Chris Lines, Paul Corry and Jose Semedo - and that is assuming Rhys McCabe keeps his place so there is only one central place up for grabs.

Another option is for Jones to switch to 4-5-1 - as he did to create the performance that very nearly earned a point at Cardiff.

On that occasion, the Wednesday boss had Mamady Sidibe as the lone striker, Danny Mayor linking between him and two holding midfield men, Lines and Prutton, and Michail Antonio and Chris O’Grady out wide.

If three men are fielded in central midfield at Hull today then it means two vacancies and this system could be a way of combating the Tigers, who are expected to utilise their usual 3-5-2 pattern.

If Jones is looking to replace Prutton’s experience then Lines and Semedo have credentials in this respect.

Semedo, for so long an automatic choice and a favourite with the fans, was dropped to the bench for the home game against Watford, then suffered a gash below his knee in training, and was sidelined altogether for seven games until he returned on the bench last Saturday, getting on only as an 88th minute sub for McCabe.

Lines was not involved in the Cup tie at all - another blow for the man who made a brief comeback after his long lay-off with a groin injury but then lost his place.

In an ideal world Jones would probably have re-signed Barkley, instead of him going to Leeds for a month.

That would still have depended on the attitude of the 19-year-old and his club, Everton.

Maybe David Moyes would have agreed to him returning to Hillsborough; maybe, after the youngster tasted what it is like to help out a struggling side, Moyes would have wanted him to have a different experience at a club who are doing well, as he continues his football education.

Jones has made it quite clear that he cannot just add to his squad this month; he must offload players first.

He said at his pre-match press conference on Thursday that Everton were in the driving seat. “There’s a cost to that (a loan move) as well; it’s all about that,” he added. “There’s a famous saying in football, and we love it as managers - that’s ‘speculate to accumulate’. That seems to be going out of the window sometimes.”

Jones admitted if it was possible he would “like to think” he could borrow Barkley again, and the player enjoyed his time with the Owls.

But it would have come at a cost, and there is another priority - a striker who can score goals.