|Birmingham City 2 v 2 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 29th September 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Ipswich Have a Very Hard Game Coming Up This Weekend – Notes for Birmingham City
Friday, 28th Sep 2018 10:30 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at St Andrew’s by delving into their forums.
“What a beautiful day!”, “It certainly is. I’m so happy for these players for their efforts”, “Fancy us to go all season without a win and then beat the undefeated table-toppers on their own patch. We’re an odd club”, “A win has been overdue. Let’s take it into the next games and get a good run going.”
“At long last we’re on our way.” City may be heading into Saturday’s game 17th in the table but many Bluenoses see this as a false position. Last weekend’s first win of their season away to league leaders Leeds came off the back of a run which has seen City draw six of their opening eight league games.
“Let’s be honest. Who had us getting four points from Sheffield United and Leeds away, because I certainly didn’t”, “Our season has been weird so far. We play well but have dreadful luck. We should be in the top six. We have dominated at least five of our six draws and missed countless chances.”
“The run we have been on has been farcical. Eight games played before Leeds and we should have won six of them. I have never seen a run like it in over 40 years following City”, “All I have seen this season largely has been a good team playing well. This isn’t a surprise on balance, it had to come.”
“It’s awfully frustrating to do everything apart from the most important thing”, “We are a decent side but the difference between us and those winning most of theirs is that bit of quality. We don’t have a prolific scorer or someone who can produce a magic moment to allow us to win a game.”
The Threat of a Points Deduction
“I will be happy if we stay up due to the off-field issues, but this squad and manager are a striker off a play-off run”, “The aim this season has to be staying up. We need 60 points as a minimum with this points deduction hanging over us”, “I would be amazed if our transfer embargo is lifted in January.”
The club are working with the EFL regarding their alleged breach of the Profitability and Sustainability (what was previously known as Financial Fair Play) regulations. Earlier this month it was suggested that the club could face a 12-point deduction for exceeding their permissible levels of losses.
They were placed under the embargo as they were on course for losses in excess of £39 million over a three-year period, with manager Garry Monk only allowed to sign five players during the summer transfer window, those being either free transfers or loan signings on wages of less than £10,000 per week.
The Times has claimed that City may now face a 15-point punishment for what they describe as an ‘aggravated breach’ of the regulations. The EFL said it was “exceptionally disappointed” over the £2 million signing of left-back Kristian Pedersen which may have been made outside of the restrictions.
“Fire-up the points deduction bus”, “It seems like at some point, the EFL want to make an example of a club to try to make sure others don't breach the guidelines. Our owners now have a responsibility to make sure that they don't get to make an example of us. Every legal route should be pursued.”
“What a manager we have in Garry Monk”, “He is just cracking on with the job and saying the right things in the media, when he could be using the uncertainty and incompetence of those above him as an excuse”, “There’s a genuine game plan and a very confident mentality throughout the side.”
The 39-year-old took charge in March with the club third-bottom of the Championship and having lost five league games in a row, steering them to a final position five points from the bottom three. Fans appreciated the way in which he has given structure and confidence to his small playing squad.
“What a difference a good manager makes. You can see we have a plan and the players know their roles. He has got us playing entertaining and passionate football”, “I have never seen a more obvious example of players playing for a manager. Garry Monk certainly has the dressing room on his side.”
“If Garry could have brought in the players he wanted over the summer, I wonder where we would now be in the league”, “He has had limited scope to change things as the squad is so limited”, “He is the best manager we have had since Chris Hughton. We play just like a promotion-chasing team.”
The Importance of Finishing
“This is one of the most balanced City sides I have seen in a good while but we still have no cutting edge”, “Our tactics have been spot on and we have been creating chances. However, changing our tactics won’t make much difference as to whether a striker puts the ball in the net or puts it wide.”
Fans have warmed to the positive brand of football their team is playing. “We are solid and quite decent. We play aggressive fast-paced football with good pressing”, “We go long and direct and can be dogged, niggly and stubborn when we need to be, but we also pass the ball and that is exciting.”
“We aren’t flashy. We just generally play well until it goes near the goal”, “We make a lot of poor decisions in the final third. There are many times when a quick ball sends a forward through, but instead we take a highly speculative shot which will never work, or we turn back and kill the attack.”
“Once past our first 12 or so players and we are lacking a bit”, “Our first XI is alright. We defend fairly well and have an improved central midfield. We are tenacious and creative but our finishing is poor. We have been lucky with injuries but if these start to bite, we will know a lot about our prospects.”
City’s starting line-up (above) at Elland Road was set out in Monk’s preferred 4-4-2 formation. There is a strong emphasis on building from the back with the team being solid and hard to break down. Supporters have praised the strong partnerships which have been formed in all areas of the pitch.
“This is the first season in many that our defence doesn’t have a weak link”, “Our defence is mustard at the moment. Our centre-back partnership is the best we have had in years”, “I like the shape of our defence. We are certainly not near the bottom of the table as a result of our defending.”
Keeper Lee Camp was praised for a world-class save late on at Leeds to secure their win. Michael Morrison and Harlee Dean are a solid centre-back pairing, and while left-back Kristian Pedersen is getting to grips with English football, right-back Maxime Colin is an effective foil for his winger Jota.
“We defend well and press tenaciously from midfield as a team.” Both Maikel Kieftenbeld and Gary Gardner protect the back four and while Kieftenbeld is more effective without the ball, Gardner tries to bring play further up field. Teenager Charlie Lakin has been praised for his eye for a creative pass.
“The creativity of Jota and Jacques Maghoma means we are really cohesive.” City’s threatening play mostly originates from their wide midfielders, who will often cut inside to link with the strikers. Jota is praised for his creativity, while Maghoma’s industry and pressing complements the central duo.
“Goals! We need goals!”, “We are a striker away from a decent side”, “We have played well and look organised and solid. There have been excellent periods of play where we have created chances, but haven’t taken them”, “We have played well but just can’t score”, “We batter teams but don’t win.”
“This is the most inefficient City team I can remember.” Striker Lukas Jutkiewicz is seen as a good but immobile focal point who is only a threat in the air, while his partner Che Adams adds mobility and some pace but is inconsistent. Omar Bogle is a regular bench option but is seen as ineffective.
Leeds 1 – 2 Birmingham
“A phenomenal result, thank God for that”, “A brilliant result, but I was as nervous as hell when they scored”, “Leeds were due a setback and we were due a decent rub of the green. I’m so pleased both happened today”, “A fantastic win, and so typical of City to get their first win at the hardest place.”
Che Adams opened the scoring for City with a near-post low finish from the edge of the area after eight minutes and doubled the lead on 29 after a swift counter-attack. Leeds halved the deficit through Ezgjan Alioski's low strike on 85, but Monk's side held on against his former club.
“For all their dominance, Leeds had few shots on target. It was an excellent performance”, “We got the two goals and made it ugly”, “Our players repaid Leeds’ Liam Cooper for some of the stuff he was dishing out in the first half”, “We were time-wasting and cynical but we clung on in the end.”
Sheffield United 0 – 0 Birmingham
“Bloody hell, can we be unluckier? It’s another game we deserved to win”, “This is unbelievable and almost comical. I can’t remember a run like this in 40-plus years following City, playing well and not getting it over the line”, “It has got to turn. I’m so proud the players aren’t letting their heads drop.”
The Blades emerged with a fortunate point against a City side which hit the frame of the goal in both halves. Jutkiewicz struck the post from 20 yards in the first half and Gardner's freekick also hit the upright with 10 minutes left. United keeper Dean Henderson also denied Connor Mahoney late on.
The team (above) was the same as the one which started at Leeds three days later. Fans were full of praise for their endeavour. “This is tortuous. What does Monk say to them now? You can’t criticise them but you can’t keep saying ‘unlucky lads’”, “Irrespective of everything else it was a good point.”
Birmingham 1 – 1 West Bromwich Albion
“Typical City, we should have been three up at half-time”, “This game smacks of our entire season. We’re in control with the chance to take a firm lead, yet we gift it back to the opposition”, “I knew it would simply come back and bite us on the backside when we missed that penalty and so it proved.”
Jota put City ahead on 26 from close range but had his penalty saved a minute later by West Brom keeper Sam Johnstone. The visitors levelled through Matt Phillips's strike on 39 minutes. After the break Johnstone made fine save from Che Adams before Dwight Gayle then hit the bar for Albion.
“How are we missing so many chances?”, “We played very well. It’s just a shame that Jota missed a penalty to put us 2-0 up and Adams missed an absolute sitter at 1-1”, “It just feels we deserved so much more, again”, “I have to say, irrespective of the result, that Albion have just been dreadful.”
“That’s basically our best 10 outfield players.” Monk named what most fans see as their strongest starting XI (above) for this Friday night derby. “The team virtually picks itself these days. We’re that threadbare”, “We deserved more, but I would have taken a point tonight so no complaints here.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Lee Camp has been solid in the last few games.” The 34-year-old one-time Rotherham and Forest keeper “made a world-class save at Leeds. From what I have seen of him he looked quality”, “It was a great save in the circumstances to get us three points”, “He has been an assured presence in goal.”
“Camp was woeful in our early games but he has put some decent performances together”, “He has hardly had to make any saves. Our defence has been so solid”, “He can be a bomb scare but is more than competent. He was limp-wristed and flapped at crosses in early games but his kicking is great.”
“Maxime Colin is a fantastic right-back, one of the best in the league.” The 26-year-old ex-Brentford man “is a Dennis Irwin type of full-back for me. I enjoy watching him”, “He doesn’t put a foot wrong, does his defensive work well, gets up in support of Jota countless times and doesn’t stop running.”
“I don’t think Colin has the pace for the top flight but would be a loss if we had to sell him”, “He has struggled with long balls played into his area”, “He handles the game more easily when we play out from the back”, “He’s dangerous on the ball going forward, his link-up play with Jota is superb.”
Maxime Colin (Birmingham) v Jordan Spence
“Kristian Pedersen is strong and athletic but he seems to go outside his attacker quite frequently. It means that a skilful striker has a free run on goal.” The 24-year-old Dane, a June arrival from Union Berlin, “is getting better by the game. The Championship has meant a big change in style for him.”
“Pedersen made a terrible error for West Brom’s goal. Just clear the ball”, “He sometimes tries to nick the ball when it’s played to his man and he gets turned but I love his tackling. He’s great going forward as well”, “He is still a bit naïve and will make basic errors, but he’s a dynamic defender.”
“Wes Harding is a worthwhile punt when we need someone to spark the game into life.” The 21-year-old youth product has been used as an occasional substitute. “He’s a versatile defender who can inject pace into a game. He’s not the finished product but he’s athletic and links play well.”
“Michael Morrison was absolutely heroic at Elland Road. He’s not as classy as Dean but he’s a proper warrior.” The 30-year-old ex-Charlton centre-half “had a great performance. He is playing as well as when he first arrived with a proper manager above him but he can fall apart without this support.”
“Morrison should cut out his habit of letting the ball bounce”, “He has always been defensively rock solid but less comfortable when playing the ball”, “This will never be a natural part of his game as his technique has never been great”, “He’s an assertive defender who thrives in a competitive battle.”
“There was one great bit of defending by Harlee Dean at Leeds, throwing himself in where it hurts at both ends of the field in the last five minutes.” The 27-year-old ex-Brentford centre-back “has been immense so far this season. He gave a warrior’s performance at Leeds and is such a natural leader.”
Brentford's Harlee Dean v Blackburn Rovers' Craig Conway
“Dean has been one of our best signings in years. He’s having a great season”, “Calm, collected and good on the ball”, “He tries to drive forward from the back and build attacking moves when he has possession”, “His energy and organisation have been an essential part of our very solid defending.”
“Charlie Lakin was brilliant again at Leeds.” The 19-year-old youth product “looks some kid. He has made some assured and confident performances”, “Some of his through balls give me home that the young lad might eventually be the answer to our prayers for a really creative central midfielder.”
“Lakin has the ability to beat a man with a dribble and a bit of skill. He’s very good at standing up to an opponent and shutting out a move, where others will dive in”, “Tidy and alert, he moves around well and is to be able to read the game”, “He wins the ball and picks out runs with a pinpoint pass.”
“There is no way that Maikel Kieftenbeld is Dutch. His passing is so woeful that he must have been adopted.” The 28-year-old ex-Groningen midfielder “has the athletic ability to close down opponents although he can be rash. I don’t like his habit of diving in, he’s unable to play the simplest passes.”
“Kieftenbeld on the ball is on the verge of being embarrassing. He brings dynamism and strength to the midfield but it’s pointless if we lose the ball”, “He’s best at hassling the opposition, winning the ball and laying it off to someone more technically gifted. His passing and shooting are very limited.”
“Gary Gardner has been pivotal in our revival. The transition to being a team playing with possession more in the opponents’ half is down to him.” The 26-year-old is the brother of City midfielder Craig and arrived on loan from Aston Villa in August. “He’s a very forward-thinking and positive player.”
“Gardner playing in the middle gives us a solid look”, “His heading ability is a bonus and he can direct these effectively to team-mates”, “His combative presence has stopped us getting steamrollered in midfield”, “He’s a creative passer and moves the ball quickly”, “The first name on the teamsheet.”
Wide Midfielders and Wingers
“Connor Mahoney is a genuine two-footed dribbling winger with a decent delivery, something we have lacked.” The 21-year-old Bournemouth loanee “is much more direct and whips decent crosses in”, “He’s skilful and hardworking. He looks similar to Jota, playing on the right but cutting inside.”
“I would like to see Viv Solomon-Otabor get a chance at some point.” The 22-year-old youth product spent last season on loan at Blackpool and has been used as a bench option. “We do threaten teams with him playing. He really terrifies defences”, “He’s strong and quick but also erratic defensively.”
“Jacques Maghoma gives us a bit of grip in midfield.” The 30-year-old ex-Sheffield Wednesday man “is a dangerous player when we are playing on the counter”, “either brilliant or inconsistent. He has been great for us for a while, but he has been a bit poor lately”, “He is still our likeliest goalscorer.”
Dominic Iorfa v Jacques Maghoma
“Maghoma hasn’t been great on the attack for a while but he has played well defensively”, “His first touch can be dreadful but he can be indecisive at times. He has pace to burn but doesn’t get to the byline to put crosses in”, “We’re often left relying on a moment from him but he can be ineffective.”
“Jota is playing his best football under Monk.” The 27-year-old ex-Brentford man “is technically one of the best players we have had in the last five years”, “He can play a defence-splitting pass and is a proper menace”, “I like the way he seems to be going outside and not cutting in like he was before.”
Jota (Birmingham City)
“Jota’s movement and ability on the ball is awesome but his crossing is weak and he can make poor decisions on the edge of the box”, “It would be nice if he had a harder shot, but he finds space well and reads play beautifully”, “Great on the eye and good on the ball but he can lack an end product.”
“Omar Bogle needs to do more. He offers nothing.” The 25-year-old Cardiff loanee has been used as a substitute in recent games. “He started poorly and is getting worse. I can forgive players a lot but his lack of effort is unforgivable”, “When he gets in the pitch he puts defenders under no pressure.”
Omar Bogle (Cardiff) v Marc Wison (Sunderland)
“I wouldn’t start Bogle, he looks two divisions below this level to me”, “He has done the sum total of nowt since he has been here”, “He always seems to be 10 yards away from the play”, “We lose our threat when he comes on”, “He’s a panic buy who can’t head a ball. I can’t see his main strength.”
“Lukas Jutkiewicz is good at keeping us up the pitch. He makes goals and we really miss him when he is not there.” The 29-year-old ex-Burnley man “is our focal point in the final third. Our game goes to pieces when he comes off”, “Our primary tactic is often to hit the ball long to him so he has to start.”
“I don’t see Jutkiewicz getting more than six goals. That’s simply the type of striker he is”, “He’s not mobile but he fights for the ball well. He’s good in the air and holding up the ball but when it is at his feet in front of goal he’s hopeless”, “The ball keeps coming back at us when he comes off the pitch.”
“I guess Adams had to come good sooner or later.” The 22-year-old former Sheffield United striker was praised for his brace at Elland Road. “As frustrating as he can be, he’s still the most capable of making a goal out of nothing”, “We know he has such potential. Let’s hope this is his turning point.”
Che Adams (Birmingham City) shoots at Erwin Mulder (Swansea City)
“Adams is at his best running at defenders and down the channels rather than fighting for balls in the air. He gets outmuscled by big centre-halves and is more effective attacking from a deeper role. He can lose interest and become invisible”, “He’s so inconsistent, looking good in every fifth match.”
City Fans’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“This is Blues. We can lose to the bottom of the table as easily as we can beat the top of the table”, “If anything, this is the biggest game we have had so far as it will be a good litmus test for us. We always historically struggle with the ‘weaker’ sides”, “We will lose 1-0. City on effing toast all over.”
“We were due a win against Leeds. We’re now due a poor can't-string-two-passes-together defeat”, “I can see Ipswich coming for the draw and getting it. We can’t create anything when teams come for the point”, “The Blues way is to totally dispel any positive vibes by putting in a shocking display.”
“I would be happy with a scrappy 1-0. Let’s get some points on the board just in case.” A number of fans have taken a fatalistic approach after last week’s heroics at Elland Road, but the majority expect a comfortable, if narrow and low-scoring home win. “We make hard work of so-called ‘easy’ games.”
“Are we just suited to playing those teams who are expected to be on the front foot against us? Then when a team lets us have the ball, will we come unstuck as we did against QPR?” The Hoops drew a scrappy 0-0 encounter at St Andrew’s at the beginning of the month by spoiling the game.
“The Ipswich game will be a good test of our tactics and adaptability. It will be a completely different challenge to Leeds away. Hopefully, we will remember the lessons learned from the QPR game. We mustn’t let Ipswich dictate tactics, fragment the game and bully us, just like we allowed QPR to do.”
“Ipswich may well make it difficult for us to play the way we want, but QPR were supremely cynical. They fouled incessantly, wasted time and destroyed the rhythm of the game. So, in that sense, I’m hopeful that Ipswich will not be as cynical and it won’t be quite as difficult as the QPR encounter.”
“Ipswich will also be coming to St Andrews looking for their first win so we need to play aggressive high-pressure football”, “This is a massive game that we have to win. I'm hoping we don't repeat the QPR performance. We need to play as we did against West Brom. If we do, it will be 3-0 to City.”
“We will beat Ipswich because of Monk. He doesn't get carried away with things and will keep the players’ feet firmly planted on the ground. Ipswich will be interesting to see how far we have come”, “If we score in the first 20 minutes we will batter them, otherwise we will win by a single goal.”
The busiest City forum is the friendly and knowledgeable Small Heath Alliance, which carries links to City-based stories from local media. Birmingham City highlights are available on the Multimedia menu as well as Ipswich Town and for the whole of the Championship and other EFL leagues.
Photo: Action Images
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