Myself and co-editor Joel Cassidy take over the running of this site not entirely sure what to make of the club’s current predicament.
Off the field, controversy remains.
I’m not going to pretend I know all the ins and outs when it comes to the boardroom details and transfer embargos. However, it does appear that for the first time in a long time, our owners genuinely have the money available to make us one of the big hitters in the Championship again.
That was evidenced last summer when Harry Redknapp, Jeff Vetere and Darren Dein were wrongly entrusted with a hefty budget ahead of a season that finished with Blues surviving on the final day. A talented set of players were badly mismanaged, misused or simply never received the rocket up their backsides that would have seen them play a bigger part of a campaign that initially promised so much more.
With the EFL already keeping a keen eye on us following the huge increase in spending last summer, the club decided to push the limits of the governing body further by disobeying a ruling on a “soft embargo” by paying over £1.5 million for left-back Kristian Pedersen.
A possible points deduction and hefty fine could be coming our way according to reports. And after being denied in his bid to sign much-needed quality, Garry Monk found himself hunting in the bargain sections to bring in Lee Camp on a free transfer and trio Gary Gardner, Omar Bogle and Connor Mahoney on loan for the season. Apparently, we are allowed to sign one more player for a limited fee.
On the field, positivity is being marred by an inability to get the results our performances have often deserved.
Garry Monk spent much of his career as a leader during Swansea City’s rise from League Two to the Premier League, playing at centre-half as part of a team playing their own brand of Total Football, his managers including Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez to name a couple.
The expectation is that Monk will bring his own brand of beautiful football wherever he goes but his time at Blues has shown the other side of the game. Swansea City didn’t rise up the divisions because they played the most pleasing-on-the-eye football. They won three promotions in seven years because the quality of the players and coaching was glued together by the core principles of any successful side – hard work, discipline, determination and leadership.
It’s those aforementioned qualities that have shone through during Monk’s time at St. Andrew’s, or St. Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium as it is currently known. Monk also has a natural air of positivity that has rubbed off on the fans and players alike, talking highly of the club, the fans, the players and he has shown a fearlessness when it comes to blooding young players.
The team perform in the gaffer’s image. Blues are a high-tempo team, always looking to press the opposition and snap into challenges. The fans are lapping it up too, watching a team so full of energy, tenacity and deserving of results.
But it’s the results that are the problem. Blues have lost two, drawn six and won none of their opening eight matches. While only Middlesbrough, Swansea City and Leeds United have conceded less than Garry Monk’s side in the Championship, no team has scored less.
Despite our defence evidently being one of the best in the division, Blues’ primary downfall has been a lack of ruthlessness in games, lacking the composure and cohesion in the final third to put games to bed when in the ascendancy.
Blues are extremely reliant on the ability of our forward quartet of Jacques Maghoma, Che Adams, Lukas Jutkiewicz and Jota. Since Maxime Colin’s late consolation at Cardiff City in Garry Monk’s second game in charge, Blues have scored 18 goals and not one has come without the input of that front four.
In the 17 matches since the defeat in Wales, that quartet have been on the scoresheet 14 times and have also been responsible for 10 of the 14 assists made. The outliers in terms of goals have come from Jacques Maghoma (Marc Roberts) and Jota (Harlee Dean) set-pieces and a wonderful Jutkiewicz (Viv Solomon-Otabor) pass.
Quite simply, if the front four aren’t on song, Blues don’t score.
They have taken the brunt of the criticism and while they have hardly proven fruitful in the final third this term, it’s evident that confidence, luck and quality in the opposition area is in short supply from everybody in a Birmingham City shirt. No side has hit the woodwork more than Blues this season while the improved height of the team hasn’t helped our inability to look dangerous from set-pieces.
Yet it’s impossible not to feel like the goals will start to come sooner rather than later. This isn’t like Gianfranco Zola’s reign where positive performances so often ended in defeat as the result of the side seemingly giving up the ghost. The team are still fighting, they remain well-organised and it feels like a couple of goals and a win will give this team the confidence to turn the corner.
Maybe it’s my youthful naivety, something readers of this page will get used to from this point on. At Vital Birmingham City, we aim to bring you a passionate, positive and upbeat view on the club’s fortunes through whatever joys and sorrows may come and hope that will show in our writing.
That positivity is shining through the club at the moment despite the downturn in results and off-the-field predicament. The fans are united, the players are performing and the management have helped bridge the large gaps between ownership and fans and the first-team and youth set-up. Hopefully, a win is just around the corner.