Birmingham City’s unbeaten run comes to an end and Pep Clotet’s ‘honeymoon period’ is now over.
He has deserved a break from criticism and he quite rightly has been rewarded with praise. Now, however, is the testing time when we need points from the remaining nine games. During the unbeaten run, which produced a fair amount of draws, it must now be down to him and his backroom staff to start winning a few games.
Our league position is about right for the results we have been getting, although realistically we could have been so much higher had we held on to a few leads. Apart from West Brom, we have games against Hull, Huddersfield and Charlton that should give us the opportunity to get some wins.
What is obvious, however, is that our defence is fragile at best with the goals against column a real cause for concern. Attacking wise we are thankful for the Hogan experience and that alone.
Without this loan signing, I shudder to think what our points total would be like. Yes, we have had a decent run, but the Reading game again highlighted our problems. It’s difficult to change things around now, but serious decisions have to made in the summer for a stable back four.
Can the current backline improve and will they still be around after speculation regarding the likes of Pedersen and possibly Dean?
Whatever the outcome, our management has numerous issues that will test them – least of all the Bellingham business – which could, if handled correctly, lead to a simpler restructuring of our team.
Player replacement will depend naturally on finances and our Financial Fair Play situation, but should we be in a position to strengthen seriously then a more concerted effort to get into a higher league could be on.
Players such as Crowley, Marabti, Maghoma, Montero and sadly Gardner, would not, in my opinion, be influential for such an upward push. Bela and Hogan are different class in terms of improving the team with the need for a solid back four the priority.
Perhaps Roberts and Dean can improve for next season in order to keep the goals against column more respectable and Pedersen, if he stays, can prevent his side of the pitch conceding on a regular basis. What surely must be improved is the tactical side of seeing out winning positions.
Not easy for any manager and do you stick or twist in games has always been the dilemma since football began. With Blues this season, we have seen big numbers of games go begging that could have secured maximum points. However, we are where we are in the lower end of the table and hopefully we can finish in a mid table position and take heart that the games played have been relatively good, with a season remembered for watching a sixteen-year-old player getting rave reviews and we being the first to witness it.
Add then a player who didn’t fancy doing it for our fiercest rivals but would do or die for wearing our blue shirt and scoring for fun, then reasons to be happy.
What must be done in the summer rebuild, or reshape, is the determination to get promotion and prevent a full decade of Premier League exile. What will undoubtedly be key for such a return is the business surrounding our key asset and whether we will be able to invest in quality players. This could be the opportunity that supporters have been yearning for and it could be tantalisingly close.
The summer will tell.