It must be of some concern to Alec McLeish that Birmingham have only scored one goal so far this season. Not scoring a goal against Man Utd is not something to be ashamed of, nor would scoring have been expected. However, the two home games against Portsmouth and Stoke should have yielded more than one goal.
This concern becomes an alarming concern considering that Larsson’s registered effort against Portsmouth was a penalty. The way in which the penalty was gained should be something that causes McLeish sleepless nights. It was not given because a Birmingham player was fouled when through on goal, nor did a player block a shot with his hand. Essentially David James fouled Larsson when he was not in a goal scoring position. Therefore, Birmingham cannot, in my mind look at the penalty as a bone fide goal – it was a lucky goal.
Home games against those teams which will be struggling with Birmingham should be the occasions when goals are scored. If Birmingham are faltering in front of goal against defences that in their other away game this season shipped four then there is a problem.
That problem is that Alec McLeish has too much choice. McFadden, Benitez, O’Connor, Phillips and Jerome have all played up top this season and all bar Benitez have started one of the three matches. There is a lot to be said for stability within a football team and creating partnerships which can succeed. Modern day examples of partnerships succeeding include Pires and Henry, Cole and Yorke, and Gerrard and Torres. These are some of the best players to have graced the Premier League so the question is whether the examples trickle down to players not blessed with the kind of quality that the aforementioned superstars have / had.
Yes. One of the most successful strike partnerships in the Premier League was Phillips and Quinn. These good players were incredibly successful when paired together. Peter Reid used a tactical system which played to their respective strengths and it worked. During last season the partnership of Beattie and Fuller was a driving factor in Stoke remaining in the Premier League. Before Beattie’s arrival Stoke were flirting with relegation, having signed Beattie and playing an orthodox 4-4-2 gave Stoke the resilience to keep most teams out and score the goals needed to take all three points.
So, that takes us back to Birmingham and their striking choice. The only way in which they will score the goals needed to stay up is if McLeish picks a front two and allows them to develop an understanding. My thoughts would be that Benitez would be one of the two. This is for no reason other than he cost a club record amount of money and I do not believe that Messes Gold and Sullivan would be happy seeing a lot of money being wasting away on the bench. My choice for Benitez partner would be McFadden. He does have the quality to play in the Premier League (something which is questionable with O’Connor and Jerome) and is dynamic enough to work between the line and on the flanks, if needed. Furthermore, when playing without the ball, a 4-4-2 can quickly become a 4-5-1.
Alec McLeish needs to make his decision quickly before Birmingham play too many six pointers at home and do not find the back of the net.