Sheffield Wednesday – Predicted end-of-season position

Start to the season – 7/10

Not as easy as some would have liked, but with the Championship table becoming more and more settled Wednesday can consider themselves in a strong position. Carlos Carvalhal‘s side are a place (sixth) and five points (41) better off than at the same stage last season.

Performance of the manager – 8/10

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99.9 cent of Wednesdayites remained behind Carlos even when things were not going quite to plan. The Portuguese has implemented a number of subtle changes this season, which have taken a while to bear fruit. He always had faith in his plan, however, and recent results suggest so should we.

Team performance of the season so far – Newcastle United (A)

The Owls returned from the home of the league leaders with a deserved win courtesy of Glenn Loovens’ second-half header – and could have had more were it not for Magpies goalkeeper Karl Darlow. With the three sides directly above them all winning earlier on Boxing Day, the performance was a real sign of the team’s improved character.

Star player – Sam Hutchinson

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The 26-year-old was recently restored to Wednesday’s midfield having started the season at centre-back and his proactivity appears to have brought out the best in those around him. In fact, had Wednesday taken as many points per game from their opening 16 fixtures as they have done since Hutchinson’s move (2.13) they would be level with second-place Brighton on 51 points.

Where to strengthen in January – Defence, midfield, up front (?)

The Owls have already crossed speedy right-winger off the list, bringing in West Brom’s Callum McManaman until the end of the season on loan. Better competition for centre-backs Tom Lees and Loovens would be most welcome now, as would some cover for injury- and suspension-prone Hutchinson. Middlesbrough striker Jordan Rhodes continues to be linked but with the chances still coming (and likely to increase once McManaman hits form) and Gary Hooper back in training, things are perhaps not as bad as some would have you believe.

Likelihood of strengthening in January – 8/10

Owner Dejphon Chansiri will spend whatever financial fair play allows him to, which according to Carvalhal could be less than people think. As the capture of McManaman suggests, high-quality loan signings could be the way to go.

Challenges ahead – Keeping key players available

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