After a well-earned point for blues away at Bramall Lane, one element of the game that stood out to most, was the unexpected change to a 3 at the back formation, a system that Steve Cotterill is familiar with from his time at Bristol City.
Apart from an attempt to match an inform Sheffield United side, it seems Cotterill believes his players can play in the system. His confidence in the players must be high to change formation against a team sat in third place in the table and scoring goals for fun. By having a closer look at the squad, it would seem as though a 3 at the back system may suit the players.
Starting with the defence, with blues looking so fragile at the back against Middlesbrough last Wednesday, adding an extra centre-half helped to solidify the defence against United, who scored 4 in their previous home match. By bringing Michael Morrison back into the lineup, this could also be a positive thing for team confidence; as Morrison has shown he is a leader which can only be a positive thing alongside two ex-captains in Roberts and Dean.
Secondly, the midfield is, without doubt, the weak point of the squad; with Maikel Kieftenbeld being the only player able to consistently perform at a high level. By reducing the number of midfielders this allows for higher quality players in other areas, such as an extra centre-half. Personally, I would like to see Jason Lowe get a run in the team alongside Kieftenbeld, as I believe he provides more defensive solidity than David Davis and also has a better eye for a pass than Ndoye or Gleeson, in my opinion.
As the leagues lowest scorers, it’s clear that Cotterill needs to play with three forwards, which is exactly what this new system allows. The freedom that Jeremie Boga and Jota found themselves in at times of the match on, shows that the system gives them less defensive responsibility, allowing them to try and create more chances for each other and the third forward. The highlight of the match was, of course, Boga’s effort from around 25 yards into the top right corner, showing he has the confidence to shoot from long range which is something Blues have lacked recently. Jota, on the other hand, struggled throughout the game to create any clear-cut chances. However, he did show glimpses of his quality, which I believe will be shown in this system and when the team are naturally creating more chances as confidence grows.
Lastly, a significant change to the lineup on Saturday was the return of David Stockdale, who blues fans haven’t seen the best of as of yet. Despite Tomasz Kuszczak having a few good seasons at Blues, I believe Stockdale is the better of the two overall. Both are very good shot-stoppers but I believe Stockdale’s comfort on the ball is what separates them. At times this season, it seems blues defenders have been anxious to pass back to Kuszczak, who’s kicking and mobility is clearly not at its peak. On the other hand, Stockdale is an outstanding kicker of the ball, which I believe is important not only to give blues chance to create an attack from a kick but most importantly it gives the centre-halves the confidence to pass it back to their keeper when under pressure.
With a local derby on the horizon, I believe Cotterill will stick to the new system as Wolves also play the same way. Despite Wolves being the outright favourites for promotion this year, they have been beaten 3 times this season with two losses coming away from home. With the same desire and organisation shown in the Sheffield United game, Blues can give the home fans a good performance and a positive result in the second local derby of the season.
Blues fans, would you like to see Cotterill play this system long term following Saturday’s match?