Blues 0 Coventry City 1 .. Ron's Report

Last updated : 04 November 2008 By Richard Barker
To be honest, I'm not going to analyse this one too much. Partly, I can't really be bothered, as it was a bit depressing, but also partly, a lot of what I've said already this season about Blues not really firing just caught up with them tonight and they got stung. Like the Blackpool and QPR defeats, to those who've seen a lot of Blues this season, this won't have been a great surprise.

Blues were unlucky not to score, hitting woodwork, having the ball cleared off the line and coming up against the goalkeeper that I think is the best outside the Premier League - Keiron Westwood. I saw him a few times for Carlisle United last season, and mentioned to various people that I felt Blues should try and sign him. I think Coventry spent £500,000 on him - a snip.

Still though, don't let the fact that Blues were a bit unluckly not to score fool you into thinking Blues were unlucky not to get a result. Coventry themselves hit the crossbar in the first half, through Morrison, and then Jay Tabb missed one of the biggest sitters that anyone's ever likely to miss in front of the Tilton. Just as the score could have been 3-1 to Blues, it could have been 3-0 to Coventry. It was one of those games really, but fair play to Coventry - they got the goal, they defended quite well (led by Westwood) and you can't really argue with them getting the three points.

So, what is the Blues problem? Well, I don't want to re-open the whole "creative midfielder" can of worms all over again, but, well, it's probably the lack of a "creative midfielder". Now, I'm not so naive to think that simply putting someone of the ilk of Jason Koumas into the team would solve everything, but you do need to look at the wider picture.

Blues have five good to excellent strikers at this level, in James McFadden, Cameron Jerome, Kevin Phillips, Garry O'Connor and Marcus Bent. I know that if I mention Wolves and Reading and their goalscoring, people will argue (and perhaps rightly so in Reading's case), "ah, but look at the league table - what good has it done them??" Well, yes, there is that, but Sylvain Ebanks-Blake and Chris Iwelumo have (I think) scored more league goals between them this season than the entire Blues side. Kevin Doyle has got more league goals then McFadden, Jerome, O'Connor and Bent put together.
Are the likes of Doyle, Ebanks-Blake and Iwelumo better strikers at this level than, say, Phillps, McFadden and Bent? Well, I'd argue that they're not particularly. They have attributes that some of our strikers don't have, but the same could be said vice versa. So, why aren't ours scoring as many goals? Because let's face it, relying on 1-0s all season was never, ever going to work, and Blues' goal tally is now becoming a problem.

Well, I've seen Ebanks-Blake, Doyle and Iwelemu all miss chances this season (the whole world has seen Iwelumo miss a chance for Scotland, but that's a different matter), and so to have scored the amounts that they have just highlights their respective teams' ability to create chances for their forwards. However, perhaps Jerome aside, I don't remember any of the Blues forwards missing a whole host of chances this season. The fact is, Blues simply don't create enough chances for their forwards. For a good striker to get 20 goals a season, they're going to need 60 odd chances - look at Andy Cole when he was in his prime. He scored for fun, but that was because he was supplied with so many chances.

It's all very well having a set of forwards that are the envy of most teams in the league, but if you create little for them, then what's the point? Now, I'm not paid enough by Blues to address the problem, otherwise I'd have a bloody good go. However, it's getting to the point now where you have to say that a stand-out feature is a lack of a central midfielder who can pick a killer forward pass. Not just a forward pass, but one that opens a team up. For years now, Blues have had the likes of Cisse, Savage, Nafti, Johnson, Carsley, etc, etc in the middle of midfield, and none of them can do it (with any regularity). Even here, with Blues chasing the game, Kemy Agustien (who's about the best bet at giving it a go that we've got) was replaced by Nigel Quashie, who again doesn't have that ability.

Again, I'm not so naive to think that all midfielders are either "defensive" or "attacking" - I grew out of Championship Manager a while ago. The midfielders that I've mentioned above aren't necessarily "defensive", but they are lacking when it comes to that little bit of craft to open a team up. Someone who can do that is now, it appears, sadly lacking for Blues. Yes, in the likes of Seb Larsson and Quincy there's a bit of that from the flanks, but there's only so much you can do from out there - banging crosses in for 5'2" Kevin Phillips to try and out-jump 6'4" Ugly Centre Half.

It's becoming increasingly clear that Blues simply don't create enough chances for their forwards. Forget criticising McFadden, Bent, O'Connor, Jerome or Phillips (whichever one of them is the boo-boy of whichever moment), as Doyle, Ebanks-Blake, Iwelumo, McCormack, Beattie, etc, etc don't make everything happen themselves - they rely on service. If the service isn't there, the striker will struggle. It's a simple, basic truth of football, unless you are out of the ordinary and your name's Thierry Henry, Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi, etc. I can't see the Blues board stumping out for any of them, so we have to improve the service that we do provided to the decent set of strikers that we have. Whether that's through new recruits or a change in style, it needs to be done one way or another.

I accept that Blues attempt to play more football now than they did under Steve Bruce, but there still needs to be a purpose to the passing, and not just a desire to knock it around on the floor without actually hurting anyone. Something needs to be done to increase the "Goals For" column, because not scoring goals is going to cost you points. You can win games when you concede two or three goals. You can't win games if you score no goals.

Finally, for people who will say, "how did Nicky Hunt play?", he wasn't bad.