Alan Biggs: The quick and the dread - potential targets and Rafa Benitez’s rampant Newcastle United occupy Sheffield Wednesday

Carlos Carvalhal with winger Adam Reach
Carlos Carvalhal with winger Adam Reach

From what this column detects, Sheffield Wednesday spent last summer prioritising one of the hottest attributes in football – pace. It proved elusive.

Players with that extra zip are, alongside goal-scorers, the priciest and the hardest to prise away from their clubs.

I think you can draw two conclusions. The first is that the Owls failed to land their primary target or targets in this area. The second is that pace will again be very much on the agenda in the January window.

A poignant pointer to this comes in the formidable shape of Wednesday’s Boxing Day visit to Newcastle who, along with Brighton, are threatening to storm to automatic promotion.

There in opposition is Wednesday’s Wembley nemesis Mohamed Diame, whose dynamic performance and brilliant goal did much to decide last season’s Championship play-off final with Hull City.

But Diame is not alone in the speed department from what I witnessed in a breathtaking Newcastle blow-away of Birmingham at St. James’ Park recently.

Rafa Benitez’s side is brimming with attacking potency, led from the front by the prolific Dwight Gayle and serviced by two other rangy midfield runners in Isaac Hayden and Vurnon Anita.

Wednesday will do brilliantly to extract a return from Tyneside before heading into potentially more than winnable fixtures at Preston and at home to Wolves.

Then comes the January window with its accent on quality over quantity to help bridge the gap on the top two and cement the Owls into the play-off places at least. Two or three recruits can go a long way if they are the right ones.

My conviction about a concerted attempt to loan Jordan Rhodes from Middlesbrough remains. A chance-taker of this pedigree at this level cannot be overlooked. You’d then reckon on Carlos Carvalhal addressing the question of pace from midfield.

Bear in mind how determinedly Wednesday pursued Alan Judge before the Brentford winger befell long-term injury. It will be hard to attain a player of this sort of calibre but you would expect wide-ranging attempts.

All of which does not reflect adversely on Adam Reach, whose club record switch from Boro in the summer will cost up to £7m.

Reach has had an awkward start at Hillsborough where his frequent covering deployment at left back was not what he or Carvalhal intended.

We are seeing glimpses of what Reach can deliver in the future, allied to a good attitude and work ethic.

The difference in terms of creating and scoring goals can be fractional. This player looks to be getting there.

Wednesday, as a team, can say the same.

They have not been anywhere near as impressive or convincing as in the second half of last season and yet have stayed in the running when short of their best – with the second half of this one to come.

You have to say the outlook remains healthy.