With Blues currently sitting pretty on an 12-game unbeaten run, there’s been a few suggestions as to what’s caused this recent surge in form that’s got some even daring to dream of the playoffs. The arrival of the brilliant Scott Hogan has been considered crucial, as have the performances of the ever-improving Bellingham and even the reinstatement of penalty-saving expert Lee Camp. One factor that appears to have gone unnoticed though is the arrival of assistant coach Alberto Escobar, who’s appointment has coincided perfectly with recent improvements. Could it be that the rarely mentioned Spaniard has been the man helping to driving Blues up the table?

When the experienced Paco Herrera returned suddenly to Spain just before Christmas, Pep Clotet was left with a rather bare and inexperienced coaching setup of Craig Gardner, Daryl Flahavan and Xavi Calm. When appointed as Herrera’s replacement his unfamiliar name might have suggested this was another of Dong’s random Spanish imports. But 50-year-old Escobar appears to have built quite a reputation for himself in footballing circles as a smart, analytical coach, with his CV boasting two promotions to the Premier League. These were achieved at Watford and Fulham where, in every season he was involved, his teams both consistently scored more and conceded less than they’d done the previous season. It’s perhaps unfair to suggest that Escobar alone was responsible for these improvements, having worked under the well-regarded Slavisa Jokanovic at both clubs. However, Blues fans can be encouraged by the fact that when he joined Fulham they were in a situation remarkably similar to those Blues found themselves in just a couple of months ago-hovering dangerously above the relegation zone before going on to see a vast upturn in fortunes.

Asides from his work as a coach on the training pitch, Escobar also holds the position of analyst, with the key responsibility of pinpointing weaknesses and opportunities with upcoming opponents. Not only does this allow the team to prepare on a match-by-match basis in a way not previously possible, but it allows Pep the time to focus on implementing the change in style he’s been tasked with achieving. It’s fair to say the results have been impressive and encouraging, for since his appointment Blues have only lost twice in two months and failed to score in only one game. Compare that with the side’s apparent inability to find the back of the net before Christmas, meaning they chalked up only 1 win in 10 and the turnaround appears even more remarkable.

Anyone who’s turned out to watch recent games can see that the side appears considerably more defensively organised and that they’ve found much more bite when going forward. The form of the reinvigorated Juke and brilliant Hogan draws reminders of the effect James Beattie appeared to have on Adams last season. This has certainly been helped by pairing the two up front, although it wouldn’t unrealistic to think that the former striker’s experience coaching in the Premier League and La Liga has had some part to play.

After what’s been an already long and frustrating season for Blues, fans finally have something to be excited about as they enjoy an unbeaten run and look forward to an upcoming FA cup fifth round tie. There’ve been several equally-important factors that have helped bring the positivity back to B9, yet one rarely (but deservedly) mentioned is that of the impact of Escobar. When appointed, Pep claimed him to be “a massive addition” and, considering results, he’s not been wrong. With clear improvements in such a short space of time Blues appear to have found an experienced, talented coach who is able to get the best out of both the players and his fellow coaches, leaving fans hoping he can score his hat trick of promotions while at St. Andrews.