Dom Howson's Sheffield Wednesday column: Why Owls must secure a play-off place at the very least
Where will Sheffield Wednesday finish?
It is a question I always get asked before the start of a new season.
Most of the time I dodge it in a way that would bring a smile to Carlos Carvalhal’s face.
I try to reserve judgement for as long as possible 1) Because a lot can happen between now and the August transfer deadline. 2) I personally think you can only start to truly guage how a team will fare after you have seen them six to 10 times in action.
But I have decided to break with tradition and put my head above the parapet this year - even if I end up with egg on my face.
The Championship is a tough, unforgiving division. It is an incredibly hard competition to get out of due to the volume and intensity of the matches.
Nonetheless, the play-offs have to be Wednesday’s minimum objective again.In truth, Carlos Carvalhal’s side have to beat last season’s sixth-placed finish to maintain their upward curve,
Since securing a second-tier return in 2012, the Owls have finished 18th, 16th, 13th and sixth. Year-on-year progression. They have kept on raising the bar.
Wednesday have retained their top performers and bought astutely in the transfer market. Daniel Pudil, Almen Abdi and Steven Fletcher give them extra experience and quality.
The team might still be light on numbers in certain positions but have class where it matters. Fletcher’s arrival undoubtedly enhances the Owls’ attacking prowess and the Scotland international appears to have forged a promising partnership with Gary Hooper during their pre-season programme.
If Carvalhal can get his forward line firing on all cylinders, Wednesday will take some stopping.
All departments of Carvalhal’s team are looking healthy apart from their defence. Pudil is the only senior left-back on their books and Carvalhal currently has just three central defenders. Captain Glenn Loovens is one of their centre-backs and he is sidelined until September after ankle surgery. There are also big question marks over Sam Hutchinson’s ability to play three matches in a week.
Wednesday’s lack of strength in depth in the centre-back and full-back areas could hinder their prospects of challenging Newcastle United, Norwich City, Derby County and company for an automatic promotion spot. The league arguably looks stronger than ever so it is imperative the Owls cover all their bases. There can be no weak points.
Carvalhal recognises there are still gaps in his side which require addressing. Should they get their recruitment drive spot on, Wednesday will really start to look the real deal.