On the face of things, Sheffield Wednesday’s summer transfer business appeared pretty astute.
The Owls spent big money on bringing in proven Championship performers in Adam Reach, Almen Abdi, David Jones and Daniel Pudil. All departments of the team were bolstered. Surely they would only kick on after coming so close to ending their top-flight exile?
A lack of strength and depth cost Wednesday, at times, during the 2015/16 season, and boss Carlos Carvalhal made it crystal clear he wanted to carry a bigger squad to combat any injuries and suspensions that might come their way this time around. With the emergency loan window having been scrapped, you could understand, to some extent, the club’s thinking.
Although Wednesday bolstered their numbers, did they adequately address their problem positions? Are the team much stronger now than they were before? Most people would probably answer ‘no’ to both of those questions.
What Wednesday were crying out for after their Wembley heartache - as I’ve said before in this column - was a new centre-back to partner Tom Lees, an athletic, commanding central midfielder and a centre-forward.
Carvalhal’s men tried hard to sign a new centre-half, making a number of inquiries, but failed to find a suitable one at a good price and ultimately moved Sam Hutchinson from midfield to the back four to solve their defensive shortage. As well as Hutchinson has performed, the team have missed his aggression in the centre. His role should not have changed and the Owls should have done everything in their power to add a quality defender.
Jones has brought bags of vim and vigour but is a different type of player to Hutchinson while Steven Fletcher, as good a striker as he is, has never been prolific goalscorer.
When you compare Wednesday’s recruitment strategy to Brighton and Hove Albion, who they beat over two legs in the Play-Off Semi-Finals, there’s only one winner. The Seagulls, who were pipped to the automatic promotion spot by Middlesbrough, identified their weaknesses and shrewdly signed Shane Duffy and Glenn Murray, who have made big impacts.
As for Wednesday, Abdi has been a major disappointment, Pudil has not hit the heights of last year, club-record buy Reachis still adjusting to his new surroundings, Will Buckley has hardly figured and Urby Emanuelson is still waiting to make his debut two months after moving to S6. If anything, they have too many options.
The chairman has put his money where his mouth is, but the new arrivals have yet to consistently deliver. And, unless things quickly change, questions will continue to be raised of Wednesday’s recruitment drive.