As City’s somewhat bumpy start to their 2019/20 Sky Bet Championship campaign has seen them level out in mid-table after 11 games, the question is, what are this season’s expectations for the Blues? What would supporters be happy with realistically?
Manager Pep Clotet, alongside members of the playing staff, have come in for criticism in recent weeks as City went on a poor run – something they’ll have hoped to put behind them following their win over Middlesbrough on Friday evening.
Even still, during that poor run, City were always competitive and, though sometimes lacking in quality, perhaps a little unlucky, with individual errors costing them on occasions.
So will the aforementioned exhilarating, dominant performance against Middlesbrough become the expectation? That’s probably also unrealistic as, for as good as City were, the visitors were best described as abject on the night.
Blues won’t dominate every team like that, they won’t have many easier games, and they really do need to be more clinical to get their just rewards from matches moving forward.
You could see what Clotet was looking for with his system though, tucked in wide-midfielders allowing the full-backs to offer the width and numerical domination centrally. It was very good, both individually and collectively, and the Spaniard will hope to receive the continued patience for this to evolve moving forward.
So would Blues fans be happy with an ‘up and down’ season of consolidation and progression? Should they be happy with this?
They certainly should. City need the stability. They need a longer-term philosophy and structure. An identity. Blues don’t have the resources of others at their level to go out and spend lavishly. They need to build something from within.
Clotet seems a good fit for this. Patient, calm, trusting and willing to believe in youth. He has already shown that young players at the club will get ample first-team opportunities if they warrant it. Getting the balance right between experience and youth, along with selective recruitment, has to be the way forward for the club, both in terms of development on the pitch, and sustainability off it.
So going back to the original point, what should Blues fans expect this season? They should look for development, a clear improvement of playing style and understanding as the season progresses. They should assess the long-term impact of Clotet’s coaching and improvement (and involvement) of the club’s youngsters and whether the Spaniard is giving the side a direction as a whole.
It’s still early days, and things can change quickly, but the signs are all of the above are gradually happening. City sit 12th in the table, with some good, bad and indifferent performances so far. However, it’s the longer-term work and planning being done by Clotet that supporters (and the club hierarchy) should focus on and support as City look for realistic, but clear, improvement.