Sheffield Wednesday: Absent Fernando Forestieri lets down Owls team which did so well at Norwich

Kieran Lee holds his head as a chance for Lucas Joao goes begging. Pictures: Steve Ellis
Kieran Lee holds his head as a chance for Lucas Joao goes begging. Pictures: Steve Ellis

There was only one name on everyone’s lips at Carrow Road - and he wasn’t even involved in the main event.

Fernando Forestieri refused to play, casting a big shadow over his Owls future.

Protective headwear for Steven Fletcher

Protective headwear for Steven Fletcher

The talented striker, who topped the goalscoring charts last term, finding the back of the net on 15 occasions, told boss Carlos Carvalhal on Friday before the team coach left Sheffield that he “was not in the right frame of mind” to feature.

Several Championship clubs have expressed an interest in Forestieri’s services. Derby County saw a £7 million bid for the 26-year-old turned down last week. Newcastle United are also believed to be monitoring his situation.

Carvalhal claims the transfer speculation has turned Forestieri’s head.

He said: “In the modern football, it is like this. It’s the money that makes the personalities.”

New signing Will Buckley

New signing Will Buckley

Forestieri is contracted to Wednesday until 2019 and Carvalhal is adamant he will not be sold.

The Forestieri saga provided an unwelcome sideshow and threatened to undermine Wednesday’s attempts to pick up a positive result in Norfolk.

But, even without their star man, the Owls more than held their own against a Norwich City side who were dining at England’s top table last year.

It was a richly-deserved point and the visitors could have claimed all three had their finishing been better in the second half. Would you know who have made all the difference? Quite possibly.

Tom Lees

Tom Lees

More than just a one-man team

All of Wednesday’s pre-match work was based around Forestieri starting. His absence could have affected the team. But the Owls underlined yet again that there is a lot more to them than one individual.

Tom Lees delivered an accomplished performance at the heart of their backline, Barry Bannan superbly orchestrated the midfield operation and Lucas Joao - playing only because Forestieri made himself unavailable for selection - put in a hard-working display up front.

Defensively, Wednesday kept their shape and discipline well throughout. They stifled Norwich’s flair players. When the hosts did occasionally get in behind them, the Owls put their bodies on the line. I lost count of how many key interceptions and blocks Lees and Sam Hutchinson made to keep the Canaries at bay.

As an attacking force, Wednesday grew in confidence and stature as the contest wore on. In the second half, Carvalhal’s side always looked more likely to break the deadlock.

It took a smart stop from Norwich’s substitute goalkeeper, Michael McGovern to foil Bannan after a lovely move involving Joao and Gary Hooper carved them open.

Lees saw his effort from a corner stabbed away from near the goal line before Joao was denied a sight at goal after an inch-perfect recover challenge from Ivo Pinto.

There were some boos from the home contingent at the final whistle. In stark contrast, Wednesday’s players were clapped off the field by their travelling supporters after another impressive display.

Lucky not to pay the penalty

Things could have been very different had Norwich been awarded a 15th minute spot-kick. There were not big appeals from the hosts when Robbie Brady went down under a challenge from Hutchinson.

However, TV replays suggest Hutchinson got none of the ball and accidentally stamped on Brady’s foot. It does have to be said that Brady didn’t do himself any favours by dramatically falling to ground.

There was a huge sigh of relief for Hutchinson just before the half-hour mark when his sliced clearance flew just over the bar after a fine delivery by Brady.

But Hutchinson regained his poise and it sums up how well Wednesday defended as a collective that Keiren Westwood wasn’t forced into action until the 70th minute. It is worth stating at this point that Norwich put four past Blackburn Rovers in their league opener.

“We said beforehand that Norwich are one of the best teams in the league,” said Bannan, who was named man of the match. “But we stuck to our task and got a good point in the end.

“I thought, to a man, the boys who started and the subs who came on were excellent. We showed our team spirit.”

What to do with Forestieri

By refusing to travel, Forestieri let himself, his teammates, the club and the fans down. It was not the actions of a team man and it is difficult to see how Forestieri can repair his relationship with the club, let alone the supporters.

Chairman Dejphon Chansiri insists no-one will go before the transfer window closes on August 31 but keeping an unhappy, unsettled player is hardly going to have a positive affect on team morale.

If Forestieri wants to go, Wednesday should cash in on him now. If Derby or Newcastle are prepared to meet the Owls’ valuation, the club ought to sell Forestieri and reinvest the money back into the team.

Admittedly, it is easier said than done trying to replace someone of Forestieri’s ability. He is an incredibly gifted footballer at this level but no player is bigger than the club.

For Wednesday’s sake, it is vital the club resolve the situation as quickly as possible. The last thing they need is for this issue to linger and rumble on for days on end. It needs to be nipped in the bud so the Owls can move on and devote all their resources to improving what they have.

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