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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…
Sheff Utd 0-1 Birmingham Collin 19
Birmingham 0-0 Stoke
Birmingham 0-2 Bournemouth Solanke 77, Anthony 87
Luton 0-5 Birmingham Roberts 7, Hogan 26, 47, Gardner 84, Aneke 88
Barnsley 1-1 Birmingham Styles 6 – Jutkiewicz 33
Birmingham 2-0 Derby Hogan 31, Bela 81
Birmingham 1-4 Fulham Deeney pen 87 – Odoi 10, Mitrovic pen 44, 83, Wilson 54
Peterborough 3-0 Birmingham Dean og 1, Clarke-Harris pen 35, Grant 50
Birmingham 0-0 Preston
QPR 2-0 Birmingham Chair 34, 64
Birmingham 0-3 Forest Grabban 11, Yates 29, Spence 53
West Brom 1-0 Birmingham Grant 75
Huddersfield 0-0 Birmingham
Birmingham 2-1 Swansea Deeney 47, McGree 82 – Obafemi 77
Middlesbrough 0-2 Birmingham Roberts 53, Hogan 56
Birmingham 3-0 Bristol City McGree 14, Hogan 68, Gardner 76
Birmingham 1-2 Reading Hogan 3 – Clarke 70, 82
Hull 2-0 Birmingham Honeyman 17, Wilks 57
Coventry 0-0 Birmingham
Birmingham 1-0 Blackpool Jutkiewicz 81
Millwall 3-1 Birmingham Wallace 10, Bradshaw 41, Evans 73 – Deeney 56
Birmingham 2-2 Cardiff Deeney 29, Sunjic 45 – Moore 66, McGuinness 90
Blackburn 4-0 Birmingham Buckley 6, Khadra 52, Brereton 60, 79

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?

Links >>> Birmingham City official website >>> St Andrew’s – Ground Guide >>> Small Heath Alliance – Message Board >>> We Are Birmingham – Podcast >>> Birmingham Mail – Local Press

The Twitter @loftforwords, @MatthewBlue1875

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GroveR added 17:45 - Jan 1
Bidwell? Blimey.
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TacticalR added 22:42 - Jan 1
Thanks to Matthew.

Looking at the results Birmingham have had some good and bad runs this season.

It sounds like they are trying to do the impossible (or at least the very difficult) by reducing the wage bill and playing better football, and all the while relying on key loan players.
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