February 16, 2015 by bluenosebible
By Nat Peters
Now Gary Rowett has done a fine job since taking over as Blues manager. In fact that is a vast understatement; our turnaround since he took over has been remarkable. Four months ago or so I thought we were doomed to be playing League One football next season, but Mr Rowett has effectively dragged us up the table by the scruff of the neck.
However our result against Millwall at Stan’s last Tuesday was poor and our performance was diabolical. It’s now four points out of five games and whilst four draws on the spin before losing to ‘Wall wasn’t a totally disastrous run of form it could have been a lot, lot better. For me, at least some of the responsibility for that has to lie at the feet of Gary Rowett. There are some who think questioning anything he does is akin to committing an act of heresy but this is rubbish; he’s a manager who has done very well for our club so far, but he is a football manager and not the Dear Leader of North Korea. He is not above criticism or having his decision making questioned.
We have just been way too predictable in the past few weeks. Two goals in five league games would suggest that teams have figured us out and we don’t seem to have the abilities to pose them a different set of problems. I’ve seen someone suggest that the ‘Shinnie experiment’, playing Andrew Shinnie in behind the centre-forward (the vast majority of the time that centre-forward being Clayton Donaldson), has now failed. I’d disagree; if anything I’d say the experiment (if that’s the most apt adjective) almost worked too well initially. When first re-introduced to the side, Shinnie was a revelation and a key cog in our unbelievable form late Autumn and the New Year.
But now I think teams have learnt to smother him by placing at least one deeper lying midfielder on top of him. Rowett has tried to shift things around a bit by playing Demarai Gray there and using Lloyd Dyer on the left hand side but for me Gray isn’t yet able to really make an impact there and Dyer’s lack of match fitness has shone through at times. Simply shifting players into different slots in the past few weeks has been like shuffling the deckchairs on a boat once it has started sinking.
Even when Rowett has tried to change things around during the course recent games, the changes have often made little difference. Against Sheffield Wednesday, Norwich and Fulham, we simply swapped Clayton Donaldson with Nikola Zigic and utilised him as the lone striker and the big man has been totally redundant in most of his cameo appearances. It’s made no effect because teams have learned how to be solid against us when we are playing in this formation and Zig can’t stretch a backline on his own.
Personally I’d like to have seen Wes Thomas given some game time. Wes is different to the rest of our strikers in that he possesses genuine raw pace and power but Rowett, for whatever reason, seems not to fancy him. Against Millwall we ended the game with Novak and Zigic up front; where’s the movement going to come from with those two? Against Norwich and Fulham we simply left Zigic on his own up top; his lack of pace basically meant we had no way of stretching their respective backlines, and we just invited pressure on ourselves. Against Sheffield Wednesday Thomas did get ten minutes or so, but expecting him to do something in ten minutes on his own against one of the best defences in the league was always a monstrously sized task. I’d like us to start switching to two up top at points in games and maybe even start with that formation every so often, just to give us some variation and to not make us too predictable. It’s clear that Clayton Donaldson is Rowett’s first choice striker but he spends the majority of every game being kicked from pillar to post so he needs more help, and I think his most effective striker partner has been Thomas so seeing the two of them up top together more would be great.
As I said at the start Gary Rowett has done a splendid job since taking the job. He has turned around what looked a near impossible situation a few months ago and full kudos to him for that. I can to an extent see why he has largely stuck with the same group of players and the same system that has served him and us so well since he came into the club, but now I think teams have found us out somewhat so we need to vary the way we play a bit. The league table shows us as eight points away from the drop zone, which is exactly the same position we were in at this sort of point last year; I’m not saying we’re going to end this season the almost catastrophic way we finished last season, but it does show that the season is not over yet for us. We’ve had a blip and we want to stop that as quickly as possible and I think to do that we need to start having more than one rigid plan going into every single game.
Anyway, roll on ‘Boro. We’ve had a week’s rest whilst they could be drained from their valiant but futile efforts at Arsenal. They are a team with some very good players but we’ve got good results against other teams with some very good players this season so let’s hope we can do so again.
Great little piece!! Rowett has done a fantastic job turning the club around, however we have seemed a bit flat last few games. Gary could really earn his corn now,if manages to get us up and running a second time we should be well entrenched in midtable. I have every confidence we will get over this blip!
Very good article.
Anyone can win this league.
Wolves are no better than us…2 to 3 wins on the spin and you never know.
Couldn’t agree with you more. I was certain we would go 442 against Millwall with 2 up top, especially as we were at home & with their poor record against us. I think at times we could even go 433, I do think we have players who can play in more than one position & we should utilise that option. It’s worrying for me that it’s not just the 1st team the goals have dried up for but our younger squads too. With Mark Sale as a coach he’s not exactly in a position to pass on his vast striker knowledge as he wasn’t exactly prolific in front of goal!!
Agreed. A change is needed. Novak is OK but Wes is simply better. I’d play Wes and The Don up front 4-4-2 against Boro, with Dimi to start.
I must say I thought people having a go at GR was a bit premature, but the Millwall game deserves the negative comments above. There are 2 points I would make, if Grey is worth £7+ million. why is he on the bench for 70 minutes – he is certainly a better player than Dyer. Also our dip in results coincides with Donaldson not scoring. He has had several good chances in the last couple of games, which he was putting away before, even against Millwall he had a one on one before they scored. I agree that Rowett has done a brilliant job, but does need some criticism at times.
Leaving Donaldson out of the Albion match has backfired. Resting him for more important matters has caused a complete drying up of his talents. Had we had a proper go at West Brom and beating them would have also kept the momentum going. More games ! so what. The only thing that releases Rowett from criticism was his ability to get the side to react to set backs positively. The reaction is a long time coming this time
Totally agree with everything you say. I do think though that the limitations of these players has to be taken into account too. GR has had them over performing (as opposed to LC who had them under performing) and we need to realise that we have seen the best of this group of players. That’s not a criticism of any of them but just the way it is in my opinion.
Talking about experiments too, I think the “zigic experiment” is one that hasn’t worked. I don’t see what extra dimension he brings when he comes on and totally agree that a pacey wes Thomas is a better option. If I was a tired defender in the last 20 minutes of a game would I rather face a lazy lump who can’t jump or a rapid striker who will run and run at me. Cue the abuse from the zigic lovers now 😃