Now that Garry Monk’s Birmingham City have attained their first victory of the campaign, EFL aficionado Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) reckons there’s more to come.
One To Watch – Elland Road win could be a springboard for Birmingham
Winning at Elland Road can sometimes be the perfect tonic to put an wanted hoodoo to bed.
In January, Millwall travelled to West Yorkshire without an away win to their name; they finished a dramatic encounter with a 4-3 win, the first of six consecutive road victories which catalysed an unlikely play-off push.
It’s not implausible that winning at one of the biggest grounds in the Championship and in front of that electrifying atmosphere can boost confidence that little bit more.
Can Birmingham’s 2-1 victory against the league leaders be a catalyst for a good run of form? Here’s why it might just be…
Adams has potential
Lukasz Jutkiewicz gets through a lot of work that is vital to the creation of chances. He occupies centre-backs and wins knock-downs, meaning that from a simple forward ball, one of the three attacking players can find themselves in a shooting position before the opposition can re-organize themselves.
Because ‘Jukey’ does that job so well, he is forgiven for not being the most ruthless of goalscorers – the ex-Burnley man only bagged six last season and one so far this term.
That means though that there is a lot of pressure on his strike-partner to make the most of his flick-ons and it appears that Che Adams is starting to do so.
The former Sheffield United youngster twice came close to scoring against West Brom this month – crucially, when he did blaze one particularly presentable chance over the bar, he didn’t lose his belief and kept getting into goalscoring positions.
Having bagged a brace at Leeds, it is plausible that he could start to find a purple patch; the mobile forward is somebody to look out for in future anytime goalscorer markets – starting with next week’s hosting of Ipswich, where he can currently be found at 39/19 (888).
Quality out wide
It seems crazy to think that Jota and Jacques Maghoma have only scored two goals between them.
The wide duo have been pivotal to Birmingham’s attacking play; Jota, with his jinking runs in from the right channel and ‘Mags’, powerful darts from the left.
The former has seemingly rekindled the exciting partnership he developed at Brentford with right-back Maxime Colin, who has enjoyed a positive individual start to the season with his overlapping runs.
Equally, Maghoma’s understanding with left-back Kristian Pedersen was much in evidence in the victory at Leeds.
Jota and Maghoma’s displays have been worthy of a top half side; keep that up, whilst perhaps adding a few more goals to their respective games and results will turn.
Maikel Kieftenbeld had been a stand-out performer in the first seven games for Blues, so when he was ruled out for the trip to Sheffield United due to a fitness issue, it felt like a big blow.
Step forward Charlie Lakin.
The academy graduate made his first senior start at Bramall Lane, putting in a wholehearted, all-action display which won him the adoration of visiting fans.
Lakin produced a similarly spirited performance at Elland Road alongside Gary Gardner, who has proved a valuable addition since joining from Aston Villa.
Kieftenbeld is now back available, meaning Blues have some much-needed depth in that central midfield area with three players putting in strong cases to get one of two roles.
In the first nine games, the average position of Birmingham’s opponents has been eighth.
In the next 11, the average position is 17th; in that sequence, they host five of the bottom six.
Of course, there won’t be any easy games but, if Blues can sustain the performance levels they showed against Swansea, West Brom and Sheffield United when they face lower-placed outfits, logic would suggest that their fortunes will improve.
Plus, while previous games were played with Lee Camp lacking sharpness and confidence, the goalkeeper can take great heart from a fine performance at Leeds, which should mean that performances like the one at Nottingham Forest should become a thing of the past.
They could overcome a points deduction
While the possibility of a 15-point deduction looms over the club, it would be premature to back Blues to achieve anything – like a top half finish, for example – in the outright markets.
However, even a massive blow like that wouldn’t necessarily guarantee relegation.
It would put them on -6 points, which looks like a terrible position on paper but, if we assume survival will require 50 points, then Monk’s men need approximately 1.5 points per game, the equivalent of Brentford or Sheffield United’s return last season.
Considering that they have been the more impressive side in five of their nine games, roughly on a par in three and only outplayed by prime promotion candidates Middlesbrough, that’s still achievable.
Blues, performing well under a sound manager with a united fanbase and now the psychological boost of that first win, have the minerals to thrive in adversity – count them out at your cost.
Che Adams to score anytime v Ipswich (39/19 888)