Dom Howson column: The greatest challenge facing Carlos Carvalhal

Carlos Carvalhal
Carlos Carvalhal

We are going to really see what Carlos Carvalhal is made of over the coming weeks.

As the Owls boss acknowledged before the international break, he is currently experiencing the most challenging period of his S6 reign.

It should be stressed that Carvalhal has enjoyed far more ups than downs since succeeding Stuart Gray in the managerial hot-seat in June 2015.

But last season’s run to the Championship Play-Off final has raised expectations and Carvalhal’s team have so far under-performed this time around.

There have been a few off the field distractions, namely the Fernando Forestieri saga and even recently Claude Dielna’s social media outburst, which perhaps suggest everything is far from rosy at Hillsborough.

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The fact of the matter is Wednesday’s results have not been up to scratch for some time. Since April 9, the Owls have won just three of their last 15 fixtures in all competitions. That is relegation, not promotion form.

As Carvalhal seeks to turnaround their league fortunes, I think the Portuguese chief’s toughest job will be trying to keep his Wednesday squad happy.

With the loan window having been scrapped, the Owls have taken no chances, bringing in nine new faces. There are now a minimum of two players per position.

The strength in depth is there but it is impossible to fit everyone in. Carvalhal has no fewer than six players who can be classed as central midfielders fighting it out for two spots.

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More players than ever before will be knocking on Carvalhal’s door asking why they aren’t in the squad or even named on the bench. His man management skills will be tested.

“It is a challenge for the manager trying to keep everybody happy but Carlos managed his squad really well last season and I think he will do again this year,” former Owls defender Miguel Llera told me earlier this week. “Players know he likes to rotate and keep everyone fresh. A lot of them already understand his methodology.

“Sometimes when you keep playing the same players for a while, the players who aren’t involved aren’t fit enough. Maybe you need them more in December when there are injuries and suspensions.”

As he has shown in the past, Carvalhal is not afraid to make tough selection calls. He has the strong squad he wanted and this is now where he will earn his money.

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