Sheffield Wednesday: Concerned Carlos Carvalhal seeks to solve Owls' away conundrum
It is a puzzle which is threatening to drive Carlos Carvalhal to distraction.
His Owls side remain an enigma on the road. Try as he might, the genial head coach has yet to find a successful winning formula away from Hillsborough.
Wednesday’s results on their travels hindered the club’s attempts to challenge for the automatic promotion places last season. Carvalhal’s troops triumphed on just six occasions and only three teams in the top 12 shipped in more than the 28 goals the Owls conceded. Although their away fortunes improved in the second half of the campaign, Wednesday lacked the consistency to keep up with the division’s elite.
Against the so-called lesser sides last term, the Owls struggled to impose themselves, losing away to relegated MK Dons and Charlton Athletic. Carvalhal’s charges also dropped points at Bolton Wanderers and Bristol City.
Tuesday night was another reality check for Carvalhal and his players as new boys Burton Albion, one of the bookmakers favourites to go down, earned their first-ever victory in the second tier thanks to strikes by Kyle McFadzean, Jackson Irvine and Lloyd Dyer.
Carvalhal is at a loss to explain why Wednesday are failing to produce their best football against the less fancied sides.
“It is something we have talked about with the players; it is not a question of motivation or attitude,” he told The Star. “For us to have won points at Burton, we needed to be very strong at the back.
“Burton play a certain way. They use the long balls well to their attackers and are very physical.
“They fought hard to win the second balls. In these kind of games, we must be very strong at the back but we had some problems over co-ordination.”
As is his way, Carvalhal was gracious in defeat. It would have been easy for him to use their centre-back shortage as an excuse for the team’s below-par showing.
But he said: “I want to give them (Burton) credit. They played with a fantastic attitude and caused us a lot of problems but we didn’t play with our full defensive line complete.
“We expected Tom Lees to recover but he felt a big pain and couldn’t play. We had to readapt our defensive line when [Jose] Semedo came off and we didn’t stay as strong as we do normally.
“We tried to play our usual game but we felt some difficulties to play.”
Carvalhal, who took summer signing Almen Abdi off at half-time due to fatigue, replacing the midfielder with Fernando Forestieri, hopes Lees will make a speedy recovery following the foot problem he sustained in Saturday’s goalless draw at Norwich City.
“When Tom can’t play you know he is feeling pain because he always wants to play,” he said.
“He couldn’t play because he received a bad kick against Norwich. We believe that in one or two days he will recover and can play on Saturday.”
Before the transfer window shuts on August 31, Carvalhal has set his sights on bringing in another centre-half, a left-back and a left winger to increase competition for places. It is understood the Owls are pondering re-signing Vincent Sasso on loan to boost their defensive options.
When pressed on whether there could be a new addition before their Yorkshire derby tussle with Leeds United, Carvalhal replied: “I don’t know. Let’s see.
“We are fighting for the players. We have brought in people like David Jones and Steven Fletcher who will improve our team. Will Buckley needs time because he didn’t play in pre-season.
“We will only bring in players who can improve us but these things are not easy to achieve.”