Things we sort of learned - Birmingham

We did a win, and a clean sheet, and Ivo was captain, and everyone was over the moon. Apart from 'Arry, who left less than 'apply. Zoë Whitford and Richard Jeffery were on hand to learn things. 

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Not the win we wanted, but maybe the win we needed

I don’t know about you but I love a win like the one what we done against Reading last season. A glorious, goal ridden festival of ease. Break out the cigars lads, this one’s in the bag. Bring on the tricks and flicks.

We won against Bruminghum but it wasn’t like Reading, no. It could have been similar if we’d taken our chances, but we didn’t and it wasn’t. Indeed, it got a bit nervy at the end.

I propose to you, however, that the win what we done against Bruminghum was much more valuable and important than a resounding thumping of hapless opposition. Like Reading.

Now, Bruminghum weren’t good. In fact they were pretty shit. But what they were was robust. They fulfilled the Championship minimum requirement. In the first half this manifested itself in several feet up off the ground challenges, the last one of which- on Vrancic just before half time- should have resulted in red card in my respected and knowledgeable opinion. Other than that they pretty much let us control the ball and the game in the first 45 minutes. It was exactly as Farke would of (have) wanted.

At half-time it seemed that the tactical genius that is ‘Arry made them watch replays of us versus everyone else this season, and they suddenly realised they needed to be more direct and aggressive. So that’s exactly what they did.

We withstood this more direct approach pretty comfortably, even when they brought on the humongous Cheikh Ndoye. He resembled a slightly more mobile than average tree, and on his arrival they unashamedly started GETTING IT IN THE MIXER.

This pleased me, because we didn’t ever really look like conceding, our defence was solid, (An)Gu(s)nn didn’t have a proper save to make, and it meant we’d answered a few questions.

We do have the players in our squad to deal with the more physical approach when confronted with it.

We do have the balls to mix it when required.

We do have a coach who can change things up.

We do need to back this up with performances against better and more focused sides.

It’s a blinking start.   RJ 

Captain Fantastic

I don’t think anyone was expecting the addition of open-bracket-little-c-close-bracket next to Ivo Pinto’s name on the teamsheet. What a time to be alive! It brought me a joy I had never even considered possible. What an absurdly brilliant decision from Farke.

Ivo is earnest, hard-working and committed and he seems to understand the importance of his role as a player. Of course he’s flawed – aren’t we all – but given the lack of obvious candidates for the armband when Russell Martin is out of the team, why not give Pinto a punt?

The first game of Ivo’s captaincy contained obligatory pre-game hugs and a huddle. But I wasn’t expecting him to suddenly become a chatter. I don’t know if I’d ever heard him shout before but my goodness, he was taking his role seriously. Not sure if anything he was shouting was particularly needed, but we’ve discussed before how we need more players to take responsibility on the pitch. On Saturday, Ivo Pinto found his voice.    ZW

The Warrior Returns

Timmy’s back. However much he divided opinion last season, the absence of Timm Klose has been a massive factor during the first month of this year. How could it not be? Everyone was worried about which Timm might show up, but it looks like he’s spent his time off injured doing some soul-searching and he’s ready for battle.

Timm and Zimm. It’s what I’ve been waiting for my whole life. And it worked on Saturday: Klose getting his experienced head to every ball and adding his guile and skill to central defence, guiding Zimm through the game. I was gutted he couldn’t have claimed the goal, but he did have a little solo celebration before joining the rest of the team. Welcome back, lovely Timm.    ZW

Talking down Maddison

I read this week that Didier Deschamps said young players didn’t have talent, they had potential. Talent came out later, talent was part of them making the best of their potential, showing their ability on a consistent basis. Mental strength and maturity allowing them to realise their potential, show their talent. That lots of players with potential don’t demonstrate their talent was his gist.

Well,I know I’m no clairvoyant in picking James Madison out, as there was a buzz about him for many years before we snapped him up; indeed Spurs and Liverpool were also interested, so us getting him was somewhat of a coup. But we were all waiting to see what he could do.

He is just 20 years old, but yesterday he ran the game. He sat in the deep lying playmaker position, and just kept us ticking over.

Maddison kept on making intelligent decisions, and great, yet simple passes. He’s such a confident young man, the kind of confidence that comes from knowing your ability, knowing you’re skilled. Not arrogance, confidence. He is happy to receive the ball when surrounded by the opposition, yet seldom loses it. He holds on to the ball till you think it’s too late, but then slips a colleague a pass. He draws a foul better than any City player since Mick Channon, and I include Holty in that, but just gets up and carries on when he’s been kicked. He doesn’t react. He’s got a good temperament.

His maturity, skill, confidence and game intelligence was clear to see and was clearest right at the end of the game, just before his substitution. Just prior, Nelson Oliveira, a much more senior player, had rashly and needlessly given the ball away when we were defending a one goal lead. Not so James Maddison.

He picked the ball up from our defence, and ran the ball into the deep into the opposition’s half, to the corner. He teased a couple of Birmingham players with the ball for a bit, before winning a foul, then a throw in and wasting valuable time. It was simple stuff, but not everyone seems to be able to do it. Intelligence and game management. Enjoy him while you can, he’s destined for great things.

He’s got talent.    RJ

Tettey-Taka

It was so lovely to see Alex Tettey back in the team and looking – dare I say it – fitter than he has done in ages. Until he suddenly hit the deck like he’d been shot right at the end of the game, but we’ll gloss over that. The set-up of the midfield often made it seem like he had acres of space in which to venture forward. He looked like he was having an absolutely brilliant time.

The Tettey high point was when the crowd urged him to shoot when he was in no position to do so, and he got so excited he forgot he even had to pass the ball and promptly lost it. The next time he had possession anywhere close to the penalty area, the crowd’s words were obviously fresh in his mind and he had his customary one-nutso-shot-per-game, despite the fact that about four of his team-mates were unmarked in the penalty area. Whadda guy.    ZW