Another hard slog for Bowyer's Birmingham - Interview
Saturday, 1st Jan 2022 14:51 by Clive Whittingham
An injury to early season hit Tahith Chong is hampering Birmingham's attempt to complete the tricky trio of climbing the table, improving the style of play, and hacking back at an extortionate wage bill, according to our regular Blue Matthew Elliot.
How's the season gone so far?
The team is just massively inconsistent from a results perspective. I expected to be 8-10 points better off given the new additions and the performances Bowyer got out of them last season. The most disappointing part for me is that Bowyer and Gardner both talked about developing the style of play to a more possession based style. We've seen none of that, in fact I'd go as far to say that the football has got worse. It's ugly, predictable and uninventive.
Birmingham league results so far…
Assessment of Lee Bowyer's reign so far?
No arguments from me with regards to how he started things off. Back to basics, get your best players involved and play to their strengths. He was brave and made crucial decisions in game to ensure the side took points home. Unfortunately I really can't say this is the case this season. He seems too scared, too stubborn or both to make changes now. I'm not hearing the same confidence and energy in his voice in interviews and that's reflected in the team too. It's not been easy for him which I'll touch on in the next question, but I still expected more. That said, he's still got plenty of credit in the bank and deserves time to continue to build his own team, because as it stands I don't think he trusts a lot of the players he has.
Bit ropey of late, is this injuries? A blip? Something more serious?
All of the above. Losing Tahith Chong has had a big impact. Quick, hard-working, forward thinking and creative, a player that can get the team up the pitch quickly. The team has really missed that. There's been a number of other injuries that have played their part too. It's been hard for him to get a settled team. Personally I think a lot of teams have just worked out how to play Blues and so far it seems Bowyer doesn't have any answers. He seems reluctant to switch from 532/3412, but again I think this is probably down to a trust thing with the players and especially the defence.
Any January rumours? What's needed?
There have been links to James Hill, Jake Bidwell, Cameron Humphreys-Grant amongst others. They need players in multiple positions. Adding pace to the side is a must. More creativity is needed. They also need to bring the age of the squad down too. There is so much required and it can't be done in January. It's worth noting that Bowyer and Gardner have also been tasked with significantly reducing the wage bill as the club just continues to haemorrhage money. So room for manoeuvre is slim. Fully expecting them to work on a number of high profile outgoings; Dean, Pedersen, Jutkiewicz, Sunjic and Sanchez will all be prime candidates. Getting a club to take on their wages will be another challenge altogether.
Ins >>> Troy Deeney, 33, CF, Watford, Free >>> Jordan Graham, 26, LW, Gillingham, Free >>> Ryan Woods, 27, DM, Stoke, Free >>> Chuks Aneke, 27, CF, Charlton, Free >>> Dion Sanderson, 21, CB, Wolves, Loan >>> Juan Familia-Castillo, 21, LB, Chelsea, Loan >>> Tahith Chong, 21, RW, Man Utd, Loan >>> Matija Sarkic, 24, GK, Wolves, Loan
Outs >>> Steve Seddon, 23, LB, Oxford, Undisclosed >>> Charlie Lakin, 22, CM, Burton, Undisclosed >>> Jon Toral, 26, CM, Crete, Free >>> Josh Dacres-Cogley, 25, RB, Tranmere, Free >>> Agus Medina, 26, CM, Ponferradina (Spain), Free >>> Mikel San Jose, 32, DM, Amorebieta (Spain), Free >>> Ivan Guzman, 30, RB, Ceuta (Spain), Free >>> Dan Crowley, 23, AM, Released >>> Andres Prieto, 27, GK, Released >>> Alen Halilovic, 25, AM, Reading, Free >>> Odin Bailey, 21, AM, Livingston, Loan >>> Fran Villalba, 23, AM, Sporting Gijon, Loan >>> Sam Cosgrove, 24, CF, Shrewsbury, Loan >>> Jonathan Leko, 22, RW, Charlton, Loan >>> Zach Jeacock, 20, GK, Salford, Loan
Best players so far? Weak links in the team?
Slim pickings but, Tahith Chong, Riley McGree and Mateja Sarkic have been the standouts. Sadly, we lost Chong to injury and McGree's loan with us has now ended, leaving a gaping hole at the 10 position. Other players have shown quality now and then, but nothing consistent. You can see Deeney's quality, but most of the time his teammates aren't on the same page. Weak links, take your pick...
Revised expectations for the season?
I'm not going to sway too far from my comments earlier in the season. My expectation and the clubs should remain the same despite a slightly disappointing first half. Anywhere between tenth and fourteenth should be considered a success as they try to consolidate themselves in the league. It might be the lower end of those positions, but with Chong back and a few ins and outs in January, I'm confident enough to believe staying out of trouble and finishing fourteenth is achievable. Got a tissue for this nosebleed please?
The Twitter @loftforwords, @MatthewBlue1875
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When Saturday Comes #22 by wessex_exile
It’s the 15th of January, and still the U’s are attempting to play their first home match of 2022. Weather looks good (check), players have returned from injury (check), no on-day Covid testing to get in the way (check), so barring fire famine or flood, I reckon we must have at least a 50:50 chance of a game at the JobServe this afternoon. Whether it’ll be three much-needed points or not, and if you’ll pardon the pun, I at least did see green shoots at the New Lawn on Tuesday. We still lost, and the table doesn’t lie, but definitely signs to encourage me that whilst it’s not going to be a comfortable journey, we’ll be alright by May.
When Saturday Comes #21 by wessex_exile
Here we are then, what should have been the first home game of 2022, and I discover seconds before posting this that the game is called off because of a waterlogged pitch. Having gone to the trouble of writing this, even though we’re not playing I’m going to post it anyway – it’s not like you’ve got anything else to do this afternoon.
When Saturday Comes #20 by wessex_exile
Finally, When Saturday Comes…and the U’s (for now at least) have a match to play. Mind you, I’m writing this on Friday afternoon, so there’s still time yet for yet another Covid/ injury postponement, I guess. I certainly hope not, as I’m planning on heading over to Crawley for this one. Mind you, now that the EFL have decreed there will be no on the day testing to eliminate the possibility of last-minute cancellations, I think I’ll defer buying a train ticket until this evening. Needless to say, a repeat of our last visit to Broadfield (The People’s Pension Stadium under the terms of a sponsorship deal) would do very nicely indeed.
When Saturday Comes #19 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes…and the U’s find themselves fixtureless again, following Hartlepool’s request to postpone the game because of positive Covid tests amongst their squad. To heap further fixture congestion problems on the U’s, in short order Forest Green Rovers did likewise for our already rearranged match at the New Lawn on Tuesday night, and for the same reason. They’re not on their own either, with in all (so far) four Premier League and 19 EFL matches postponed today – all for positive Covid tests in their squads.
When Saturday Comes #18 by wessex_exile
A little later than usual today I’m afraid – ‘tis the season to be jolly and all that, so I have just been out for the obligatory Xmas tree – bah humbug. Mind you, I was treated to the sight of literally hundreds of Santas (and the occasional elf) on a charity fun run through Calne on the way, which for want of a better expression was certainly surreal. Officially entitled Santa’s Scamper, the entry fee for participants goes to charitable causes, and to date the organisers have raised nearly £8k for charities such as Wiltshire Air Ambulance, Dorothy House, Hope for Tomorrow, Barnardos and of course their main charity every year, Hannah’s Trees – well done Santas!
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