Wednesday's Missing Number Eight

posted 18 Aug 2013, 15:41 by Richard Brook
Originally posted here:

Sheffield Wednesday have begun their 2013/14 campaign with two defeats, one in the Championship against Queens Park Rangers and one in the League Cup at the hands of Rotherham United. On the balance of play in the games so far, and indeed on list of squad numbers, it is easy to spot that one of the key missing ingredients in Owls boss, Dave Jones’ plans is a number eight – a central midfield player.

In truth central midfield has been a problem area for Wednesday for a number of years. The current crop are plenty in number and all have their qualities. Unfortunately these qualities are counterbalanced by weaknesses and few if any of Wednesday’s current central midfielders possess the requisite finesse across the board to genuinely succeed at Championship level.

Poor early season form, in 2012/13, saw Wednesday needing to fight to survive in second half of last season. During this time the Owls settled on the unlikely pairing of two players, who had appeared destined for the exit door at Hillsborough, David Prutton and Giles Coke, both of whom had been on loan in League One. Later they were joined by an incoming loan in the shape of Seyi Olofinjana. This gave Wednesday a more physical presence for the battle against relegation that they went on to win. Were it not for his injury record Olofinjana might well have been the permanent solution this season, following his release from Hull City, as a similar player to Semedo but with more physical presence and ball playing ability.

During the 2011/12 season en route to promotion from League One Wednesday paired Chris Lines, now of Port Vale, with Player Of The Season, Jose Semedo. Last season, defensive midfielder, Semedo struggled to make the step up a division in terms of quality on the ball. Lines excelled in pre-season before a groin injury robbed him of his chance in the Championship. Although he did make a few appearances he looked short of full fitness and left in the summer to allow new faces to be brought to the club.

Wednesday have a crop of exciting young central midfielders but they currently appear too lightweight to cut it in the first team, at least without an able ball winner paired with them. Rhys McCabe, Paul Corry and Liam Palmer have the makings of very good footballers, but the Owls badly need one or two midfielders, with real Championship experience, who can win the first balls, react to the second balls and use possession effectively themselves.

The Sheffield side possess a plethora of attacking options with pace that a midfield general could play in. The likes of Michail Antonio, Jermaine Johnson and new signings Jeremy Helan and Jacques Maghoma have the acceleration to worry the best defences in the division and newly signed striker, Athde Nuhiu, posed questions of the recently relegated QPR, although cover in this position should also be a priority for Wednesday.

If Wednesday can find that elusive missing number eight they might well improve on last season’s 18th placed finish, and surprise a few people along the way.