Often Partisan

David Murphy

It’s a fact of life that when players are out of the first team, their stock on messageboards rises as fans clamour for their return – especially during a run of poor performances and/or poor results. It doesn’t matter how poor those players have been in other games that season; their omission is clearly what is wrong with the team. Today, I’m going to make my nomination for a player to come into the team – step forward Mr David Murphy.

Murph probably isn’t top of the list of players that Blues fans would want to see called into the first XI – many see him as a poor left back and nothing more than a squad player. However, it’s not as a full back that I think Murphy should come into the team; it’s to solve a problem on the left hand side of midfield. Consider this: Against Blackburn Rovers we had two left-footed players in the starting eleven – and one of those was Ben Foster. Whilst Bowyer and Parnaby worked hard, they offered us no attacking down the left flank and as a result Blues became very stale and predictable.

Blues passes against Blackburn Rovers

As you can see from the chalkboard (courtesy The Guardian), Blues were very much concentrated down the right flank, with hardly any passes made from the left hand side of the attacking third of the pitch. The reasoning for this is simple; neither Bowyer nor Parnaby are that comfortable with their left foot so both had to cut inside to play the ball in. Between the two of them, only two crosses were put into the area (at a 50% success rate), with Parnaby hitting both of them.

Bowyer's and Parnaby's passes against Blackburn Rovers

Indeed, as you can see from the above image it was left to Parnaby to get into the more forward areas. Weirdly, they both made the same number of passes (27), with the same number of successful passes (15), although 8 of Parnaby’s came from throw-ins (four successful, four unsuccessful). In comparison, Stephen Carr made 67 passes (of which 53 were successful), and Seb Larsson 32 (of which 19 were successful). From this, you have to infer the fact that we weren’t a potent threat down the left – something that was pretty damn obvious to anyone watching the game.

It’s not like Blues are spoilt for choice on the left flank – James McFadden has been a long term absentee, Jean Beausejour has tweaked his hamstring, David Bentley has had a groin problem and Aliaksandr Hleb has only recently returned to fitness after a lengthy spell out. Thus Murphy is left as one of the few genuine left-footed players in the team who is fit, and more importantly can play the left midfield position. He’s played there a few times already this season; mostly as a sub to offer more solidity on the left flank. That does Murphy an injustice though; he’s actually a decent attacking player, a good crosser of the ball and he’s not a slouch by any means. He also has a good dead-ball delivery, which would offer us options on free kicks instead of relying on Seb Larsson, and he’s popped up with three goals in cups this season – one free kick and a couple from close range in dead ball situations.

I guess it’s all dependent on who is fit for the Sunderland game, but I think McLeish cannot ignore the lack of width we had against Blackburn, no matter how narrow he likes to play. It’s important that we have a few attacking outlets, and enough options to keep the opposition manager guessing when he sets up his team. Should Blues be still struggling with injuries, I hope McLeish will consider turning to Murphy – the alternative could be a lopsided team that will continue to struggle to make chances.

Talking Points sponsored by John Hicken Industrial roofing and cladding materials

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