Guest blogger Chris Heinzman takes a look at the new arrivals at Sheffield Wednesday since May’s agonising Wembley woe…
The summer arrivals of Steven Fletcher (free), David Jones (we have to guess on transfer fees these days – £3m?), Almen Abdi (£4m?), Adam Reach (£5m?), Will Buckly (loan) and goalkeeper Jake Kean (free) were seen as a signal of intent.
Add to this the January captures of Sam Winnall (£500k), Callum Mcmanaman (loan), Morgan Fox (£700k?) and the complicated loan / permanent / club record signing of long-term target Jordan Rhodes, and it’s clear how serious our chairman about leading us to the Premier League.
But – what impact have the new recruits made?
Let’s start with perhaps the most disappointing major signing so far – Almen Abdi. His arrival from Watford came with big expectations, a big reputation and a bold nickname – ‘The Professor’. We all know Watford fans adored him – comments like ‘twice as good as Foresteri’ did the rounds – but it just hasn’t happened for him at S6 yet.
To be fair he has started very few games, although it’s never been particularly clear exactly why. We have been told of injuries and illnesses, and Carlos has highlighted a lack of match fitness. But when he’s been given the odd chance he’s barely been noticeable.
Anyone can see he certainly has the touch, technique and intelligence of a quality footballer but those glimpses have been few and far between. It would be good to see him given a run of games and have Carlos show some trust in a player the club paid such a big fee for. Whether it’s fitness or the fact he doesn’t fit in with CC’s style of play it would take a big turnaround now for Abdi to avoid the dreaded ‘flop’ label.
Some fans have called for Abdi to be given his chance, but then the question is – where does he fit in and who drops out?
It could be now or never for him at Wednesday and a recent return to fitness followed by a couple of cameo appearances will hopefully be the start of that change in fortunes. If this fails to materialise then it has to go down as a strange decision by the club to pay such big money for a player who doesn’t seem to fit in the manager’s preferred system.
Here we have another player who hasn’t really been given a prolonged run in the team mainly due to Sam Hutchinson’s immense form in centre midfield. Jones is certainly shown himself to be a very useful squad player – off the bench or filling in for the inevitable Hutch suspensions.
The best description I’ve heard of him is “tidy”. He’s not likely to go on many surging runs or smash in a 25-yard screamer but he can pass, has good vision and intelligence to know where to position himself.
Will he ever be more than just a squad player or bench warmer? It’s tough to see him forging his way into the preferred XI – ultimately, we have better creative midfielders, and a better defensive one.
Scottish international striker Steven Fletcher arrived with high hopes among fans with his Premier League pedigree. He made a positive start to his Owls’ career showing a strong work ethic and willingness to ‘put himself about’. Unfortunately it I this trait which has seen his season be somewhat stop/start with injuries and suspensions.
In truth, there’s no hiding the fact that Fletcher has failed to deliver so far when it comes to finding the back of the net on a regular basis. OK, he’s not alone in that, and has never been known as an out-and-out goalscorer, but his top flight experience would lead us to expect more.
Another player who stirred up excitement in supporters was Adam Reach who the club broke their transfer record to sign in the summer. His versatility, age, skill and technique were said to be his main attributes.
Again, it has yet to fully happen for Reach at his new club and his versatility could actually have counted against him at times. Reach has been deployed on the left wing, right wing, left back and even up front this season. I think his strongest position is in the left side of midfield and Carlos is tending to deploy him here more regularly now.
Reach has shown the odd glimpse of his ability – trickery, creativity and intelligence but not often enough for many fans liking. He’s had a few good games in the shirt but has yet to really stand out or dominate a game and has had a tendency to give up possession too easily on occasions. His crossing ability has been pretty inconsistent. Hopefully Reach will continue to start games regularly on the left and find some consistency, as there’s no doubt he has the potential to be a key player.
In a roundabout way the arrival of Jordan Rhodes could impact on whether Reach does indeed continue on the left wing. Rhodes is a pretty much guaranteed starter for obvious reasons which gives Carlos the enviable problem of who to partner him with.
Many have suggested moving Forestieri out to the left and starting Hooper or Winnall with Rhodes, meaning a move to left-back or the bench for Reach. Despite being the highest goal scorer in the football league over the last 4 years, some Wednesdayites have questioned whether Rhodes was actually needed. Not that anyone can deny the team needs to score more goals but many, including myself, see the reason for this as a lack of creativity rather than missed chances.
That said, Rhodes definitely has the knack of poaching goals out of very little, being in the right place at the right time and bringing the best out of players around him.
Put it this way, if Rhodes can’t score goals for Wednesday in this league, in this formation, with these tactics, then nobody can.
It could be argued Winnall and Rhodes are similar players, but that doesn’t mean they can’t form a potent partnership up front. Winnall has scored all different types of goals for the Tykes and we’re all hoping he can replicate this at a bigger club 😉
Barnsley have probably played more attractive football than us this season and Winnall will need the service to show his finishing qualities. Neither forward seems the type who can just create something out of nothing a la Fessi. Winnall made an exciting start to his Wednesday career with a big impact off the bench and his recent account opener against Birmingham. Hopefully this is the sign of things to come.
Macca’s career seems to have stalled at WBA since moving from Wigan for just under £5m. He burst onto the scene at a young age at the DW Stadium (or whatever it was called back then) showing pace, skill and a directness which culminated in his memorable MOM display in Wigan’s successful FA Cup final appearance. This remains his career highlight – we can only speculate as to why he has failed to maintain that level of performance.
One thing for sure – if he is in the right frame of mind and is actually given a chance by CC he could end up being one of our most exciting signings. For me he is exactly the player we have been crying out for: pace and crossing ability is something that has been lacking for some time.
Having said this he has to edge Ross Wallace out of the side first which in recent weeks looks to have become a bigger task than many thought.
Wednesday finally brought in another left back in the shape of Morgan Fox last month and while Charton fans warned of his lack of quality he has shown promising signs.
A very good debut away at Bristol City was followed with another sound display at home to Birmingham. With Daniel Pudil not quite looking the player he was last season Fox could make the position his own, although we know how CC likes to rotate his full backs!
There’s very little to say on 4th choice keeper Jake Kean who is now on loan at Mansfield Town after being out of the first team picture completely. It hasn’t been much better for winger Will Buckley who has only made a couple of sub appearances and looks to have only been brought in as cover in a position where we have now ‘upgraded’ with the arrival of McManaman.
In summary I would have to say Wednesday’s new recruits have been average and the jury is still out on most – but there is certainly room for optimism.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that many of the current players have been performing well enough to keep the new boys out. It’s hard to justify dropping Wallace/Bannan/Lee/Hutch/Fessi etc, so it’s not simply a case that the new signings haven’t performed or “Carlos doesn’t rate them”.
Do Wednesday now have a stronger squad than last season? Undeniably, yes.
Will they do better than last season? We shall see.