Blues 1 Aston Villa 2
Steve Bruce again resisted the temptation to pick two proper strikers, with the only change from the team that started at Everton being Wilson Palacios returning for the unlucky (again) Seb Larsson.
I'm not going to go into loads of detail, firstly because a lot of what I said last week after the Everton game still applies, and secondly, it's the Villa and it makes me feel sick discussing them. Again though, I can imagine that people will be saying that Blues were unlucky, etc, etc, etc. Maybe they were, but then again, maybe once again they didn't start playing properly until it was too late.
Blues started ok, but in a high tempo, derby day kind of way, without a great deal of quality. They soon let Villa settle, and they scored following a "challenge" by Olivier Kapo that was frankly pathetic. Blues never really got going much again in the rest of the first half, and as seems to be the case every bloody week, it was left to an improved second half display to make something of a game out of it.
To be honest, I'm getting a bit fed up of it. Forget who we were playing and all the rest of it, but playing a containing style of football (not assisted by the formation) for 45 minutes is all well and good if you're good enough to do it. Blues aren't, and so there's always the chance that they'll concede, as they keep doing.
Then they're forced to throw people forward and have a go at the opposition in the second half, and they always look better and so people come away saying, "well, they had a good old go, and they were unlucky". Fair enough, there were a couple of penalty shouts and one cleared off the line, but even so, Blues are continually leaving themselves with a mountain to climb. They always have a go at climbing it, but just fall short, and it's becoming boring now. The gallant loser tag is still a loser tag, like it or not.
Cameron Jerome CANNOT play a lone striker role - it's not the way he plays. He's not good enough to hold the ball up, and he needs a foil alongside him. If 4-5-1/4-4-1-1 was the way to go today, then Garry O'Connor HAD to be the lone striker. Jerome only really came to life when Forssell came on at half-time, because he had someone else alongside him that meant he could get one on one with defenders, rather than always being faced with two of them.
When it comes to defenders, Villa's back four is basically four slow centre halves, so why not give them more to think about? They were rocked when Blues had a go in the second half, and when there were more blue and white shirts to deal with. Anyone with half a brain knew the back four Villa would pick before the game, so surely you'd want Jerome's pace being utilised alongside a bigger, better hold-up forward, with the likes of De Ridder and, dare I say it, Gary McSheffrey attacking Bouma and Mellberg down the flanks. Again, repeating exactly what I said last week, Blues have the personnel for once, but seem loathed to use it.
It's all well and good saying "well, we're playing ok with this system", but we're actually not. We're surrendering the initiative by playing this system, and playing well when we're forced into chasing a game. It's getting boring now, and Blues aren;t good enough to keep handing teams the initiative and chasing games after conceding.
For all the hard luck stories this season, there's the fact that Blues have only won three games. Those games were against arguably the three worst teams in the division in Derby, Wigan and Bolton - though Bolton look to be getting their act together. Unfortunately Blues are going to need more than that this season, but the way that they're approaching games, it's difficult to see where it will come from.