Rakeem Harper’s arrival at St Andrew’s from local rivals West Bromwich Albion was never coming in the first place.
But the way in which Blues’ midfield waned and toiled as Preston North End got a grip of the centre of the pitch in the second half, tells you all you need to know about why Harper was needed.
Ivan Sunjic and Maikel Kieftenbeld pressed and harried in the first half, as they usually do, giving the team the licence to create opportunities.
But Preston came out in the second half with their tails up, knowing that they could control the pair’s influence.
The midfield trio of Brad Potts, Scott Sinclair and Jayson Molumby came out in the second half, and looked more energised, pouncing on Blues at every opportunity.
They had more legs and it showed when they burst forward on the hour mark, with Jayson Molumby tearing through a tired midfield and setting up Scott Sinclair who started the move.
Problems were there to see. There was no one to stop Preston from breaking from front to back with ease.
Whilst the arrival of Harper might not raise many eyebrows, this signing might prove to be very crucial. Especially on nights like Wednesday’s when the pitch wasn’t doing any favours and when rain was lashing down at its finest, Blues will need legs and fast ones.
As good as Sunjic and Kieftenbeld can be together, they are too similar, both dogged and working hard in nature, but unable to carry the ball as progressively as Harper.
Blues aren’t blessed in the midfield department, as people might think. Mikel San Jose is having to cover in defence and Adam Clayton’s leggedness is apparent with each game he plays.
Harper would also be giving us the attacking to supplement the likes of Alen Halilovic and Jeremie Bela, to name a couple.
Having played behind the likes of Dwight Gayle, Jay Rodriguez in the 2018/19 season for The Baggies and with the likes of Charlie Austin, Hal Robson-Kanu and Grady Diangana in their promotion-winning campaign last season, Harper will have sufficient experience and will know how to play in a team like this.
Better service will be coming to the front line and with a Number 8 who can carry the ball and can differentiate himself in the holding midfield position, can only be a good thing.
Games are won and lost, especially at St Andrew’s, when control of proceedings decreases and that’s when the influence of Jeremie Bela and Ivan Sanchez declines, as it did in the second half of Wednesday night’s ninth home defeat of the season. They succumb to defensive duties and that’s when the whole plan goes to waste and the team ends up chasing shadows, leaving Scott Hogan or Lukas Jutkiewicz isolated.
Blues are definitely in need of a striker, sooner or later. Goals are in short supply to the say the least, with their tally of eighteen the fourth lowest in the division. It’s crazy to think that Blues’ highest marksman, Hogan, has three goals, with a host of others on two. Goals are definitely not coming from all over the pitch, and the arrival of Harper gives us hope that this can change.
Also, in the midst of this continuing pandemic, when clubs are losing out on revenue, but also have to balance the books, it is probably expected that Blues won’t sign a striker in this window. Besides, January windows rarely work for clubs, but Blues are one of those clubs who could do with a forward. Also, with Blues not the most financially secure, it will be difficult for us to fathom if Blues potentially sign a striker, who fails to make an impression.
The club have gone with a midfielder who they could develop until the end of the season, and perhaps turn it into a permanent one. A sensible low-risk option. We are not at that stage yet where we are able to splash lots of cash. We all want a forward, but who knows how the pandemic is affecting the club.
Goals have to come from the rest of the team as well. Harper will get us further up the pitch and will be able to play his part.
All hopes pin on Harper, because that’s the only thing we can do.