After 17 games, Birmingham City languish towards the bottom of the Championship having only won 4 times this season, all at home. There have been highs – beating Cardiff, the league leaders – and there have been lows – losing to Hull 6-1, and a meagre collation of one point on the road leaves the team staring a relegation battle in the face.
The promise and hope of promotion seen since the announcement of Redknapp in charge has all but disintegrated in both the fans and the players eyes. The win against Nottingham Forest has sparked a new wave of optimism.
Whilst it is wonderful to have won against Nottingham Forest, it must be noted that Birmingham have done this before, like with Cardiff and Sheffield Wednesday, only to lose in an embarrassing performance in the next game. This cannot happen again. Most pundits and commentators have been suggesting that Cotterill needs to make Birmingham City a team that is hard to beat, which is all well and good when a team can score an occasional goal, but evidently, Birmingham City have not been able to score. They are the third lowest scoring side of every team in the top 4 divisions in England – and those that are worse off are Swansea and Crystal Palace who aren’t having an easy ride in the Premier League.
Personally, the key to our success must be scoring goals. Success in the next few games doesn’t mean winning anymore, as this team is in a relegation battle. It is about pulling the midfield into making some creative decisions and creating opportunities for our front men. Struggling Blackburn last season managed to squeeze 12 goals out of loanee Sam Gallagher and having watched him play for us, I don’t think it is him that is the problem this season. When played on the wing he gave it his all and he cannot be faulted for it, but it is not his natural position, and no way can we expect him to score goals from there in the way he did last season. We need to play to the strengths of our players, and I cannot stress that point enough.
Granted, our ‘main’ striker in Vassell is injured for the foreseeable future, but no team can expect to survive in the Championship without more than one player capable of scoring goals. Further to that, Vassell wasn’t even supposed to be a signing for this season as Redknapp even said ‘it’s one for the future’ so to rely on him so much is deeply worrying. Despite that, it was promising to see a goal in the game on Saturday, but it was only one and hasn’t convinced me that the team has got the skill to score every week.
It is not something I wish to dwell on, but Gary Rowett had it spot on. His days are over, but we can learn from what he knew, playing to players strengths. Keep it solid at the back, keep the passing accuracy up and try to counter attack to score. Under this method, whilst it’s not the prettiest, we would score more goals. Evidence for this is Lukas Jutkiewicz getting 11 goals last season for us, despite being injured for a while in the new year and subsequently playing in the Zola team which had a torrid time.
I can see the problem that Cotterill is facing however, as our midfield seems to have not turned up this season. The addition of Gleeson in the middle against Nottingham was not something I thought was a great idea, but turned out to be a key addition in just keeping control of the ball for longer in the first half. Gardner hasn’t put his mark on the Championship and Davis as given some, quite frankly, abhorrent performances, and as most Bluenoses would agree, Keift’s failed transfer has been the best story of our summer transfer window.
People keep on saying this squad is too good to be in the position they are in, but regardless they have got themselves there. This team has to work together, and be the sum of their parts, as without that, the goals will never come.