Imagine the window has shut with no more arrivals and no more departures, would blues be playoff contenders or in a relegation dog fight? Whilst the club would keep Gray and Donaldson they also wouldn’t have strengthened the weak areas of the team. So what would this mean for the starting eleven?
The team will continue to operate in Rowett’s favoured formation of 4-2-3-1 and will play with the counter attacking style which the ex-Burton Albion manager has brought to the club.
So with all of this in mind I will give my view on who is the best team Birmingham can play.
Goalkeeper – Tomasz Kuszczak
The 33 year old from Poland is by far the most decorated player at the club in terms of silverware. With 4 premier League winners medals multiple League cup wins and a champions League medal to his name Kuszczak is a natural winner. Whilst it maybe argued he was not the main keeper during his time at Manchester United when he won these trophies it is more then apparent he was up to the task when required as he stayed at United for 6 years. Following his departure from United the former polish international has maintained a career at Championship level before his arrival at Birmingham. With this in mind it seems a near on guarantee he will be the number one choice between the sticks when the season starts.
You can check out the new summer signing in action here:
In order for the aforementioned keeper to keep clean sheets he will need help from his defence and Birmingham have potentially formed a strong defensive unit on a shoe string budget. A modern defence needs not only size and strength but speed as well as technical ability and between the four of them they possess this in buckets.
Right back – Paul Caddis
A man who was often jeered from the stands whilst under Clark has transformed into one of the key players as to how blues play. With a never say die attitude to the game he is seemingly the best choice to follow on from Paul Robinson as captain but this is just one of the aspects that make Caddis an obvious choice for the right back role. What makes Caddis so important is the fact he is quick when moving around the pitch often dragging opposition players with him stretching the play to create openings as well as being able to split open defences from deep in his own half with a long curving pass to the winger. Despite thriving going forwards he is more than able defensively and this makes Caddis a guarantee to play if he is fit.
Centre back – Michael Morrison
One of the best centre backs I have seen at blues in recent years and has been a key part of the transformation under Rowett. Standing at 6 foot Morrison has enough height to be able to deal with most aerial threats that he will face combined with an ability to read the game and you begin to question how blues were able to sign the Englishman with little competition. Morrison is also no slouch when faced with quicker opposition and it is rare to see him left behind by pacey strikers just adding to the fact Morrison is seemingly the complete defender for the Championship.
Centre back – David Edgar
Next we move onto Canadian international David Edgar who was bombed out on loan in January amidst rumours of a dispute with Rowett over his position but the pair may now see eye to eye. Since preseason has started Rowett has mentioned the player a few times and it could be taken as a sign they have patched things up and I for one hope so. I feel if Edgar accepts he will be used as a centre back him and Morrison could form a solid partnership as both have similar styles of being tall mobile defenders both capable on the ball and more than talented enough to help craft moves from the back.
Left Back – Jonathan Grounds
Completing the defensive line up is Jonathan Grounds who joined blues last summer after leaving Oldham Athletic and despite a shaky start he has shown improvements as the season went on and eventually looked a solid option for left back and potential cover for centre back due to his height. Grounds is not my favourite player at the club and personally I feel Mitch Hancox is a better option going forwards supporting the left winger but Grounds is a good choice defensively due to his size and strength which edges Hancox out of the best team the club can send out as whilst he stays back it allows Caddis to adventure forwards more with less restriction on how far he can attack.
With the defensive side of the team covered attention now turns to how blues can be ruthless in their pursuit of goals and with this 5 man midfield I feel Birmingham can create chances with ease. My belief is that with the two in front of the defence you need one physical presence and one playmaker capable of sitting deep and dictating the play whilst bursting forwards when the time is right and with that in mind my midfield is as follows:
Holding Midfielder – David Davis
Davis is not the most technically gifted player it isn’t a dig at him but it’s true however he is not in the team for his ability to play stunning Hollywood passes. The former Wolves man is in the team to provide a midfield engine who will work relentlessly for a whole match and uses his physical presence to dominate the midfield before offloading the ball simply to his more creative teammates speaking of which he needs a partner capable of Hollywood passes.
Holding Midfielder – Reece Brown
Step forward Reece Brown to fill the gap next to Davis. Last season this role was filled by Stephen Gleeson who was skilled at controlling the game from the deeper role and playing long accurate passes to the players ahead of him. Despite this I feel his time of being a guaranteed starter has already passed due to the progression of academy star Reece Brown who looks set to lay his claim for a starting role. Brown is able to play in front of the defence behind the striker as well as able to fill in out wide when required but I feel his best role is in front of the defence where he can pass the ball around and move opposition players around as he looks for space to thread the killer final ball. Brown is fair small and tricky on the ball which is why he needs the protection of Davis and in my opinion the pair could become a championship version of Matic and Fabregas at least in how they play the game.
Right Wing – David Cotterill
The Welsh wizard is an obvious choice to play as he made the most assists last season as well as being one of the most prolific scorers as well. Cotterill is a luxury player at Birmingham he seems to be quite and not offering something before a flash off quality which can turn a game in an instance. Possibly the most frustrating player I have seen at St Andrews as he could so easily be one of the standouts in the league yet he seemingly doesn’t want to as he jogs around the pitch and blasts set pieces all over the place yet despite all of this he must play because of the magic he can produce. It seems daft to carry Cotterill on the off chance he might produce but over the course of the season he will offer more than a player who plays week in week out at a level where he does what he has to but isn’t able to win matches on his own and for that reason the Welshman must play.
Left Wing – Demarai Gray
Arguably the brightest talent at the club and seemingly destined for greatness it was superb work by everyone at club to secure his future. Gray took all the headlines last season and became a star in the making under Gary Rowett as he became a focal point of the counter attacking style utilized by the manager and the coaching staff. Gray has all the makings of a top player as he is fast able to take on a man provide a cross as well as finishing the chances he has carved out quite simply he is the real deal in the making. To see what I mean about his speed and finishing watch this video of his counter attacking goal:
Attacking Midfield – Koby Arthur
The final spot in the midfield is taken by another academy product who has the potential to be a top player in the championship. Koby Arthur is able to play on the wing and up front but I feel he is best suited to sitting just behind the striker and playing one twos and drawing fouls in dangerous areas due to his quick feet on the ball. Arthur has played in the first team now and again as well as playing on loan at Cheltenham Town last season as a striker but this year I feel he is ready for the step up to first team. Like Gray he is quick and very skilful on the ball as well as having a powerful shot in his locker. Koby has all the parts he just needs to put them together which makes him one to watch this season.
With all of the above creative ability they will need somebody to spearhead the attack and I think everyone reading this knows who it will be so without further ado the striker who should lead the attack is:
Striker – Clayton Donaldson
Donaldson finished last season as the top scorer and has been subject of interest from other clubs but has recently committed himself to the club. It must be said Clayton is not getting any younger but is still the most prolific finisher at the club but that’s not my main reason for selecting him for my best XI. The real reason is his work rate and what he can offer to the team besides goals with Donaldson being fast and strong he is a perfect target man for the midfielders to give the ball to before breaking through themselves. There is no comparison between Donaldson and rival strikers Wes Thomas and Lee Novak making Donaldson a guarantee for the lone strike role this season.
Overall with this team I feel blues will do well but I think promotion is a step to far and with a shoe string budget it would not be beneficial to go up. The standout player this season will be Demarai Gray as he looks to continue to enhance his reputation in the footballing world at club and international level.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article it is greatly appreciated let me know who your best current Blues XI is in the comments.