The very strong case for a switch up front at Sheffield Wednesday

It’s a game of opinions, as we always say. And whatever anyone thinks, the manager’s opinion is always more informed than any of ours.

By Alan Biggs
Wednesday, 13th April 2022, 11:45 am

But the view from here, for what it’s worth, is that if anyone is going to score the goals to take Sheffield Wednesday into the play-offs it is likelier to be Saido Berahino than Nathaniel Mendez-Laing.

Darren Moore will have his reasons if he thinks otherwise, much as he clearly has great faith in both players.

The reason for focusing on the Owls manager’s current preference is that - happily and to his credit - it is the only area of debate about what is his best team.

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Sheffield Wednesday striker Saido Berahino. Picture: Steve Ellis

All other departments look sorted, even though there has been some interchange in the back three now that all defenders are available. Certainly there is barely a case for any alteration across the midfield five.

The single source of any disagreement is over who partners Lee Gregory up front and I’m not jumping on a bandwagon here because this was drafted a week ago.

Moore appears lately to have settled on Mendez-Laing despite Berahino’s recent burst of five goals, among seven this season.

Mendez-Laing, subbed for his rival at Bolton last Saturday, has just a couple to his name since arriving in November and does not look a natural finisher, having missed several bread-and-butter chances.

That said, the former Cardiff winger is a much more effective ball-carrier, capable of causing havoc with his strength and speed on either flank or through the middle.

The question for Moore is how much the team would miss that sort of threat. Operating alongside Gregory, with the licence to run either side, is the only way of accommodating Mendez-Laing if we assume that Jack Hunt and Marvin Johnson have nailed down the wing-back roles - and deservedly so.

On the other hand, Gregory is the only proven finisher within that system. Berahino, with 63 goals across a checkered but high-peaking career, is the closest to him.

It’s a tricky one considering it’s a choice between two very different players and the balance of the side is at stake, but there’s a strong case for switching to the former West Brom and Stoke star and deploying Mendez-Laing from the bench.

Perhaps Moore will go with a mixture of both depending on the opposition.

What is certain is that, aside from a few big hits at Hillsborough, Wednesday are not converting a high enough ratio of their many chances, particularly in tight games.

This has to be resolved in the last five matches, though I remain convinced they will finish in the play-offs.