Often Partisan

Purpose and Goals

Birmingham City consolidated their position just outside the playoff zone on Friday with a scrappy 1-0 victory over Cardiff settled by a somewhat disputed penalty scored by Paul Caddis. With just under half the season gone they lie in seventh, a point behind Ipswich and still in contention for a chance of post-season glory.

After what has happened at Blues over the last few years I guess we should be happy; rather than scrapping at the wrong end of the table, relying on loans and last minute goals to keep us in the division we’re fighting for a place at the top table – with talent securely signed to the club.

I don’t think I’m alone however in feeling somewhat fatigued by Blues. The effects of playing on “Mad Friday” coupled with Blues being on Sky saw a sparse-looking 14,114 venture out to St Andrews on Friday. I’m not going to blame anyone who didn’t go – no home win in two months, and more crucially more no goals from open play at home (still) since Donaldson’s second in the 4-2 win over Bristol City.

Since that Donaldson goal Blues have scored three penalties, one goal from a free kick and one from a corner in 13 hours, 10 minutes at St Andrews. In 790 minutes of playing time Paul Caddis has been our top scorer with 2. In the same timeframe, they’ve conceded 11 goals.

The injuries to Clayton Donaldson and David Cotterill have not helped matters whatsoever – but I have to admit I am beginning to wonder if playing two up front might be the answer. Watching modern football, 4-4-2 seemed dead in the water with many teams favouring attacking midfielders or wide forwards supporting a lone striker yet both Leicester and Watford this weekend continued to prove that there is something to be said for playing with such an unfashionable tactic.

If anything, one thing Leicester and Watford has proven is the value of a team playing for each other. At Vicarage Road Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo have an almost telepathic seeming partnership, being able to link up with ease to beat offside traps and defences, resulting in the Nigerian scoring 12 Premier League goals. Riyad Mahrez at Leicester proves that big money signings aren’t always necessary to achieve success; the Algerian is the toast of the Premier League with 15 goals and 7 assists yet cost about the same fee as Nicolai Brock-Madsen (circa £400,000).

One of the immediate changes for the better Rowett made when he took the managerial role at Blues was to take a morale-sapped, mis-shapen lineup and give it some organisation and purpose. I think the organisation and purpose is still there but has been somewhat eroded as he’s looked for ways to improve as teams have gradually figured out how Blues ticked – and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Rowett said in his post-match interview that he has gone back to where he started and rather than tweaking his formation and tactics is just trying to get his players to play better.

Hopefully with the return of Donaldson and Cotterill we’ll see a bit more purpose and goals return to the team. However, I think the January window is going to be equally important – a test of the amount of ambition Blues can show (even if it’s bringing in loanees on higher wages) and a test of the bottle Rowett has in changing his squad for the better. If he can get it right, then the results and the crowds will return – and maybe come May we’ll have something to celebrate.

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64 Responses to “Purpose and Goals”

  • Rob says:

    I’ve never been one to bang the 4-4-2 drum and as much as I think Toral is our most talented player, I have to admit I’d love to see Vaughan and Donaldson up top with Cotterill and Gray as wingers when playing certain types of team at home. I do think we’d struggle against stone teams in centre midfield only playing 2 of Davis, Gleeson and Kieftenbeld but I’d still like to see us give it a go. It would leave a lot of good options on the bench to change it around too.

  • Mitchell says:

    Whilst agreeing with you on the fact that compared to this time last year-we are in a much better position both in and off the pitch. My concern and disappointment however is the amount of information being released by EY and TTA at the time of year when a little bit of good cheer would not go amiss. Apart from yourself I do not get any empathy for our club from either. Limbo continues and I do not buy into the fact that this process is ongoing and we shouldn’t expect updated news. just a small reassurance from either parties would suffice.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    Before their injuries, Donaldson had scored in just 3 of his 17 starts with Cotterill adding 2 in 11. The rest of our forwards have scored 8 between them. As much as I look forward to Donaldson and Cotterill returning to action, there’s no guarantee they’ll make as much difference as we need them to. If it wasn’t for the 9 goals contributed by our defence, we might not be in such a great position as we are now. So I for one am grateful that we are.

    For me, we need a change in playing style, to push on, but that’s highly unlikely to happen, because, at the moment, we simply don’t have the personnel to go 4-4-2 (which I will always prefer.) We need a stronger central midfield, with a bit more guile.. and a nippy striker to play off Donaldson (maybe Vaughan.) We don’t have the time or resourses to change this window, but maybe next.

  • BlackCountryBlue says:

    Good points as always Dan. TBH I’m not sure if playing to a different system is the full answer though. The challenge is also to get ‘better’ players in for the system GR likes to play, but also have enough flexibility to provide something different when games are in a stalemate. Agree – other teams have ‘sussed’ us out a little and have worked out how to stop us particularly at home, and being without Donaldson and Cotterill during this period has been a big handicap with such limited resources. I still think it important that anyone we bring in is also ‘the right sort’ as well to avoid upsetting the team ethic we seem to have at the moment and based on the last 3 results where we could have had 3 wins – or at least 2 away wins and a draw on Friday.

  • Dave Mann says:

    I said yesterday that there’s no reason why Donsldson and Vaughan can’t form a partnership like Ighalo and Deeney but because we won’t play 4-4-2 due to the weakness that some fans talk about in central midfield it’s unlikely to happen but why can’t we address that in January ?… Get a Teasche or a savage type of midfielder and there’s no reason what so ever why we can’t play it at home … Away we stay the way we are because it’s working but at home we need more pressure put on defences and with cotterill and Gray our wide, two central midfield players and those two up front we would be more potent than we are now in my opinion but even with new recruits coming in I suspect our manager will stick to his guns and go with what he trusts .. Can’t argue with him if he gets us top six but we’re wait and see , it’s all about opinions but it’s Gary Rowetts that counts and nobody else’s . Kro

    • StaffsBlue says:

      To be fair Dave, it’s not just some of the fans who say we’re too weak in midfield to go 4-4-2, the manager himself has stressed the same point on more than one occasion. But, the only opinion that counts is his.. and he’s the only one who can change it.

  • Retired&Weary says:

    With the players available GR should stick to the tried & trusted formation. Our back 4, especially the full backs, is not good enough to risk a 4 4 2 formation, and our wide players not strong enough defensively either.
    If 2 or 3 better quality players come in it might be a different story.
    Regarding Deeney, from what I can see he plays behind the front man. He’s turned in to quite a clever player these days. Perhaps Vaughan could play this role? Toral is too in and out at present, Shinnie has lost confidence.
    We badly need a midfielder who can run at the opposition, and create the space lacking at the moment. Gray looks dangerous at times, but is being doubled up on, and when he does find space, lacks an end product unfortunately.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      One player I would love in our team, is Bristol City’s Luke Freeman. He can play wide left or in behind the striker. He’s quick, tricky, has a football brain.. and scores the odd goal. He always impresses me every time I see him. Wasted at the bottom of the league.

  • Paul Badger says:

    To all Blues fans. From Australia, Have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  • Richard Granfield says:

    With 5 goals of which 3 were dubious penalties in over 13 hours play at home indicates a change of tactics is needed.
    I have witnessed every home game this season, and despite our healthy league position, it has been painful to watch.
    A lot has been made of our low possession percentage as though it was a positive! I do not think it is a positive that our players cannot pass to a blue shirt consistently and build attacks rather than hoof the ball forward to one striker who is usually outnumbered.
    The attendances at St Andrews will never increase until Blues play attractive attacking football.
    If Rowett persists with his long ball tactics we may as well play 2 up top so we have 2 players contesting hopeful punts up field instead of 1.

    • Waycoolblue says:

      I was at the match blues did not play a long ball game it was not hoof-ball at all. The team played well Cardiff defended well.

      • Shirley Blue says:

        Agreed it wasn’t long ball football though Lowry did have a tendency to whack it long rather than look for a pass but he was making his debut. Whether some people like it or not it’s about getting results and GR has generally achieved that though we have had a dip in the last couple of months You don’t get points for artistic impression in professional football as far as I am aware. We would all like to see swashbuckling free flowing football with loads of goals but the reality is that just is not going to happen and if we did try that with what we have got it is likely to see us in trouble. The attendances will rise again with better results not trying to play like Barcelona.

      • Richard Granfield says:

        Way cool……..If you thought Blues played well against Cardiff I would hate to see a performance you thought was bad!!’

    • Mitchell says:

      Having witnessed the last game,I feel GR will never go one up front again. He dare not now with Donaldson back it has to be Vaughan up there as well.Richaard is correct- fans will dwindle if the attacking threat is taken away from home games. Midfield is now at the point where passes are not created no matter who plays there- which brings us to the only logical method of play which is playing down the wings- enter the full backs. Caddis plus new left back the plan.

    • Dave Mann says:

      That’s why I go I away games Richard , I see a different team .. Not a dig or a moan at all but just an observation . Kro

  • Shirley Blue says:

    No reason to change much away from home but once Donaldson is fit I really don’t see there is any significant change in the balance of the team by swapping Vaughan for Toral when we are at home. The latter is more of a second striker than a number 10 type anyway. Vaughan and Donaldson will give us a heck of a lot of movement up front with both capable of running the channels and holding the ball up and a good first line of defence with their mobility. If we look at the remaining games we have played most of the top teams away so they have got to come to St. Andrews and are likely to be looking for three points so we might be able to play on the counter-attack anyway. Away from home we have got to play a lot of the lower placed teams we have struggled against at home. That gives me hope that we can pick up sufficient points to challenge for 6th place.

  • Waycoolblue says:

    Your all a bunch of wingers. We played well against a good Cardiff team there was a lot of Incidence in and around the box that we could have been given a penalty for. The fact that a penalty was give don’t account for the hole game we played well defended well in the second half and also created chances. We won the first half battle and came out the seconded half the better team. KRO.

  • Dave Mann says:

    Ime glad Ime not one of them mate . Kro

    • StaffsBlue says:

      I’ve no idea personally, but I wonder how many teams have reached the play offs based mainly on away form. It can’t be many… but we’ve a good chance of doing just that. If we can’t rack up the wins at home, we’ll have to do it away. 3 points is 3 points after all. The only thing that may suffer, is home attendances.

  • WalmleySteve says:

    I think too much is made of formations. Ultimately, it comes down to the quality of the players and their ability to create chances and unlock defences. The four teams at the top of the championship are there for a simple reason – they have invested more in better players. Gary Rowett should be commended for the progress that has been made over the last 12 months with a very limited set of players that would not look out of place in League 1, one or two aside. And I agree with you Dan about feeling fatigued about Blues. For me, it’s not the team or the way they play, but the ridiculous on-going ownership saga and the realisation that this is as good as it will ever get unless and until BIHL move aside. What adds to the depression is the inability of anyone at the club or BIHL to communicate clearly with the supporters on the timescale for change. If, for example, they have to wait until all of the various litigation involving Carson Yeung has been dealt with then surely it would be better to tell us that so at least we know this is going to take years rather than months to resolve. In the meantime, the hope of a better future is slowly being sucked out of the club, manifesting itself in the quietest atmospheres at the last few home games that I can remember in a long while. I see the comments from Gary Rowett saying how much he’s looking forward to the transfer window, implying that there’s money to be spent, but this is all money borrowed from TTA at high rates of interest and is not the answer – we need a change of ownership with proper investment and it’s time that Mr Pavlakis stepped up to the plate and explained to the fans exactly when this is going to be allowed to happen.

    • Hillfield Blues says:

      Agree 100% WS.Formations don’t win football matches-players do.

    • jonno11blue says:

      WalmleySteve When are you and other supporters going to get it into your heads that Parvos or Ernest and Young can not tell you or any other supporter when or if the sale of the club is going to happen. As I understand it even if TTA wanted to buy the club NOW the majority shareholders have to agree so you still have the problem of persuading Carson Yeung and his supporters.
      No offence to Dan about being “fatigued about the club” but for someone who’s decided to live and work in Poland personally I don’t feel he can complain too much. It’s the supporters who attend matches, especially those who go to both home and away games regularly are the one’s feeling matter. And before anyone makes a comment I travel to all the games including preseason friendlies.

      • Hillfield Blues says:

        Wearing your match attendance credentials like some big badge and thinking it gives you a more valid point of view is utter crap.There are lots on here that can’t get to games for all sorts of reasons wheather they live in Poland or otherwise and for all that Dan has done for our club and its supporters I would listen to his point of view over yours all day long.

  • swissjonny says:

    Yes Steve I agree.I really felt that Pavlakis was going to change the culture of secrecy and silence.Not engaging with the fans is a receipe for disaster.I would suggest that we all scale down our expectations for the transfer window. I believe that we will get some new blood-but dont start printing the Lionel Messi shirts. I also hope that GR-who has many excellent qualities and has done a great job-gets some proper advice and input on any new players he wants to bring in.There are diamonds in the rough out there but when your having to bargain hunt and you have a budget as tight as ours there really is no margin for error. We dont need another Brock or Lowery-we need someone for the now.Someone who can make an immediate and quantifiable difference.I feel great sympathy for GR in this part of his role. Good luck Mr Rowett!!

  • Trevor Honnor says:

    I think a big part of playing with 2 holding midfielders is because we only really have 1 proper Centre Back. If we could get Morrison a long-term partner and they build a relationship, I’d like to see Halford given a go there. Then certainly at home we could get away with one holding midfielder and perhaps Toral in behind two strikers. We have good competition/cover on the wings and long may that continue.
    I’d like to see Davis on the pitch more often, his bite and passion is what being a midfielder is all about. His distribution is a bit suspect at times but then so is our willingness to want the ball on occasion. That simple pass to feet, isn’t so simple if you have no one to give it to.
    A proper CF and CB means we can rotate the formation and the players to suit – give people a rest and cover for injuries.

    • RichardM says:

      Agree with this. Other than Donaldson, Kieftenbeld and Morrison, I don’t think we have enough Physical Strength in the side – and I think Halford would give us this.. Surprised that so far he’s only been given 15 minutes to show what he can do, but I think he should be given a try at Centre-Back alongside Morrison. Failing that, put Grounds in at Centre-Back and recruit a left back in the transfer window. How ong have we got Halford for anyway?

      • StaffsBlue says:

        It was just a month loan I think. Half of that’s already gone. I must admit, I’m disappointed too that he’s only been given a few minutes here and there. We can’t expect players to be at their best when they’re sitting on the bench 90% of the time.

  • Blues fan says:

    It was a good win on Friday but all the fans that are saying blues played well are totally deluded we were awful at times we looked like a bad none league team. As for Donaldson he doesn’t score that many goals but he pulls defences apart and that allows our other players to score that’s why we miss him big time we have no other player that can play in that way.

    • RichardM says:

      I think it was a dull match, but to say Blues didn’t play well is a bit harsh – they did what they had to do and what they do best, nullify the opposition (which in Cardiff’s case given the firepower they have is no mean feat) and nick one on the break – I’ll take a dull 1-0 win anytime over an entertaining 2-3 defeat. Thought the defence handled everything thrown at them pretty well, and when we did break, Maghoma, Toral, Vaughan and Gray all looked like a handful. I think Maghoma in particular is a real steal, looks totally at home with this type of formation and style of play.

      Let’s worry about entertaining football once the club has been properly sold and there’s a bit more money to play with more ambition.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      That’s fine if those chances are leading to goals, but more often than not… they’re not. We need someone to play off him, to get closer to pick up on those chances. At the moment, we don’t seem to have anyone who can do it on a semi-regular basis. Toral, Shinnie, Gray… you wouldn’t bet good money on any of them scoring too often.

  • KC says:

    Agree Blues Fan we did not play well but we battled with very limited quality for 3 very good points. Cardiff missed nearly as many sitters as we did against Preston.

  • Blues fan says:

    Well said KC why is it some of our fans just can’t say the truth about blues or have a go at fans that are not afraid to say how bad our team is at times.

    • RichardM says:

      Truth is we have no money and that’s the best we can expect / afford. Why can’t some fans apreciate that it’s not going to be scintillating football until we have a far bigger budget.

      • Shirley Blue says:

        And it could be a lot worse. Look at Bolton. Last time I read anything on their situation if they don’t pay their players soon they can give in their notice and go for free. Might be worth GR sniffing around for a bargain.

    • Bluey says:

      I`ve found that to be a problem with some Blues fans.You`re not allowed to say we were poor or we don`t think we have a hope of promotion without some on here having a go about `negativity` and `whingeing`. It seems only optimism is acceptable.

    • Shirley Blue says:

      Get real FFS. We are on the fringes of the play-offs with a team costing virtually nothing. What is the point of slagging off a manager and players who have done incredibly well in the circumstances compared to what other clubs in the division have spent on transfer fees and wages and who are below us. What do you realistically expect them to do – win every game and be top of the division. They are going to have bad patches every now and again.

      • Hillfield Blues says:

        And play scintillating passing football at the same time!!If anybody on here wouldn’t honestly have accepted our current position at the start of the season they’re deluded.

        • StaffsBlue says:

          We’re definitely overachieving… and long may it continue. :)

          • Hillfield Blues says:

            And that’s the stupid thing about this.Some quality loans and Cotts and Donaldson back,we are definitely in with a shout at the playoffs.

        • Richard Granfield says:

          I don’t ask for scintillating football, just for our players to pass to one another and retain possession a bit more.

      • BhamCityJulian says:

        People can pass opinions on ‘faults’ as they see them. If you see that as ‘slagging off’ Shirley Blue then that is how you interpretate it. It is invariably constructive so I take it at face value

  • Eric says:

    Cheer up Dan and Merry Christmas. Thanks for keeping us informed especially those of us in Canada or abroad. Enjoy the holiday and KRO into 2016 when I will visit St Andrews….

  • ChrisG says:

    Friday was the 1st chance I had to see Vaughan in the flesh as it were & I said to my mates i’d love to see him paired up with Donaldson in a 4-4-2, he’s really fast & leaps like a salmon & the way they both put theirselves about & battle for every ball I think they’d form a brilliant partnership. I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t use 4-4-2 at home & I think if GR played Davis & Keft in central midfield who may not be technically gifted but I think are slightly more tougher in the tackle, with any of the 2 of our 4 widemen on the wing. At the end of the day it’s all about opinions & i’m sure GR wouldn’t be interested in mine!!

  • KC says:

    Can any one suggest why Duffy was never given a chance ? I seem to remember he came on in a home game under Clark, looked quite useful but seemed to have a few words with the manager and was taken off. Then looked ok against Blyth. Also what’s happened to the big screen in the corner. It seems to show less and less and was not on at all against Cardiff. Is it cost saving ? Sorry to go off the main theme ! Great summary Dan.

    • Shirley Blue says:

      Possibly because he was crap. He got sent back from a loan spell by some FL club I can’t remember last season which probably says it all . We have got better players than him so he would be a waste of wages.

      • KC says:

        Fair comment. Must admit never seen much of him. He scored a good goal the weekend probably at his level.

  • Mitchell says:

    Reading Daniel’s comments again and the stark depressing facts of our home form-it makes me wonder if we should ‘bully’ a few teams more. Change of style and personnel at home is probably what’s needed. So easily have we been bulldozed by lesser teams without much muscle from ourselves. Is it time to play Halford and Morrison together with Grounds at his usual position-MK and Davis giving meat to midfield and the ‘rough and ready’ Vaughan and Don. up front. Strong players with a steely spine that we should see playing all together. Getting a bit tired of our home games being dictated by stronger yet lesser teams.

  • Tony says:

    In spite of all that’s been said the question of Brock and Lowry remains, Neither are anywhere good enough and in the case of Brock cost quite a bit of money. Should say that the above is my opinion.
    However the manager seems reluctant to use them, which once again brings me to the question Why on earth did he buy them?.
    There have been many loan players available some good quality ones at that, but we never had a look in.

    • Shirley Blue says:

      Is he supposed to get it right every time? Even Alex Ferguson brought a few duds and £400k is b&gger all for a striker in the general market but a lot of money for us. I very much doubt BM was his first choice but he was very much constrained by the wages he could offer. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and he may now wish he had used that money to get a high quality loan in eg James Wilson.

  • I think we have come to our limit for bread and butter players , I think we have to sign a more skillful type of player to help win matches , …kro

  • Every transfer window turns out a few young players out of contract with a 3star skill rating . I think that should be our aim , but we need to act quickly,…kro .

  • Shirley Blue says:

    I don’t think the points total to make 6th place and the play-offs is going to be as high as previous years because outside the top 5 the other teams have been just as inconsistent as us. With 24 games to go I reckon 72 points could do it. So the target for the rest of the season would be 39 points -11 wins, 6 draws and 7 defeats as an example of what we wound need to do. Very challenging but not impossible. GR is going to need a very strong transfer window and have a lot of luck with injuries for us to be in with a chance I think. Anyway nice to be thinking like this because the last three seasons I would have been working out what was needed not to be relegated at this time of year.

  • I like the look of Marcus Madison as a cash plus player deal ,

  • Blue Steve says:

    I find it bizarre that people have such high expectations. If you compare our wage bill to other championship teams – there are maybe 6 teams that have a lower wage bill. How can we expect flowing free scoring football. GR is doing an amazing job with thus squad and with a little wise investment could make the playoffs which tbh would be a miracle,

  • KC says:

    Totally agree Blue Steve. The little wise investment on DF and Tesche made such a difference last season. However of course GR will not get everything right but because of the finances we can only allow for a small margin of error. Dyer never did much of a job and it is early days but I feel the concern regarding BM and one or two others. If you go through the squad GR has achieved something very special to get us where we are on a squad devoid of quality and midfield creativity but generally well organised. I would suggest GR has over achieved on expectation from the point he took over but that only fuels our aspiration to believe we are a big enough club to be up amongst the Albion, Stoke, Watford etc We do not have a God given right to be up there and it seems to me that when we have had our two best managers we have been in a mess at the top. Love em or hate em I would like to have seen CH or GR work under the Sullivan regime. OK they were in it for the money, and they didn’t quite get it right when the opportunity was there but compared what has happened since, even though we won the league cup under CY, it ihas been another world where so far GR has achieved miracles in the circumstances. I think we all look for a combination of results/entertainment. One day….

  • StaffsBlue says:

    Of course, at the start of the season, if we’d been told we’d be in 8th place at Christmas we’d have all taken that in a heartbeat. We’re where we are on merit, so it would be a crying shame not to invest a little bit and see how much further we can take it.

    Dear Santa, could we please have a left back, a creative midfielder and a decent striker as Xmas prezzies please?

    • Will says:

      A new owner, the Villa relegated and promotion via the play off a week after they go down
      Merry Christmas

  • Jazzzy786 says:

    If we can’t play 442 because our midfield is too weak then why not strengthen our midfield? If the manager knows what our weakness is shouldn’t he be looking to address the problem. I was reading in the BM that he still doesn’t know who his targets are and where he wants to strengthen


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