TOM LEES believes Sheffield Wednesday’s Capital One Cup heroics are a sure sign that the players are embracing Carlos Carvalhal’s squad rotation policy.
The Owls piled further misery on Newcastle United with a deserved 1-0 victory at the home of the Premier League strugglers to book a fourth-round tie at home to Arsenal.
Wednesday, despite making a sweeping 10 changes from the side that had beaten Fulham last weekend, were full value for a win that was sealed by Lewis McGugan’s late strike.
Lees was the only survivor at St James’ Park from that starting XI against the Cottagers as Carvalhal continued an approach that has seen 26 players appear for the club in 11 matches this season, by far the highest tally in the Championship.
This frequent chopping and changing by the Portuguese was criticised by supporters during the early weeks of the season, but Lees is adamant that the cup upset at Newcastle and improved recent results in the league vindicate the policy.
“Maybe a lot of people didn’t realise we made 10 changes,” said the former Leeds United defender.
“The team that started against Newcastle was unrecognisable to Saturday’s team against Fulham.
“That shows the strength of the squad. It (rotation policy) makes things more competitive, as every week you know you have to play well or you might not play the next week.
“I think it is bringing the best out of our players. We brought in a lot of players, but it is not just a case of having numbers, we have quality now right across the field. It feels like things are coming together now.
“Beating Newcastle is full credit to the manager because his preparations before games is fantastic.
“It is really, really detailed and thorough. His game plan was what you saw. We let the defence have the ball, but the moment it came into midfield we closed them down and then broke at them with pace.”
Carvalhal may have changed almost his entire starting XI on Wednesday night with tomorrow’s league trip to Brentford in mind.
But it was far from a second-string team, as many of the critics lining up to have a go at Steve McClaren over the past 24 hours have been suggesting.
For a start, five of those who came in to the team were signings made by the Owls during a hectic summer that saw the financial backing of Dejphon Chansiri enable the overhaul of a squad that had finished 13th last term.
The aim during that extensive recruitment policy was to provide the head coach with two players for every position, something that recent displays suggest has been largely achieved.
This much is evident in Lees being the only ever-present this season, his tally of starts being four ahead of anyone else in Carvalhal’s squad to underline the importance that the Portuguese attaches to the 24-year-old.
Lees said: “I can only try and keep playing well, while looking after myself. I have had to do that with all the games that I have been playing.
“My recovery has to be spot on and if he does put me out of the team then he has said what matters is how I react. He has said that to all the players. That is what I will have to do.”
Wednesday will host Arsenal in the club’s first fourth-round appearance in 14 years live on Sky on Tuesday, October 27.
Lees added: “Arsenal are a big team and it is great to get them at Hillsborough. It is something to look forward to.
“When we have played Premier League teams in the last few years, we haven’t really been at home so that is nice.
“I’d imagine it will be full, as the stadium is set now for occasions like this. First, though, we have a lot of league games to play and we do need to move up the table because we haven’t got enough wins yet.”