Wednesday evening’s clash between Birmingham and Blackburn at Ewood Park will undoubtedly go down as one of the most memorable games of the season, providing fans with a rollercoaster of emotions. The final scoreline of 4-2 in favour of Blackburn Rovers tells only part of the story, as the match was a wild affair filled with attacking prowess, defensive lapses, and late drama.
The game showcased a lackluster display of defending from Birmingham’s Emmanuel Aiwu and goalkeeper John Ruddy, allowing Blackburn to score three goals in the second half within a span of 12 minutes. At first glance, it appeared to be game over for Birmingham, but they demonstrated resilience as Siriki Dembele’s double leaves the game 3-2 by the 78th minute. However, Blackburn ultimately secured the three points with a late goal in the 92nd minute, condemning Birmingham to their tenth consecutive year without a win at Ewood Park, with the rovers getting their first home win in the league since August.
Despite the disappointing result, there were positives to take away from Birmingham’s performance. Wayne Rooney’s tactical approach was evident, emphasising gegenpressing, attacking flair, and a high level of energy. Even when trailing by three goals, the players displayed determination, with notable performances from Jordan James, Siriki Dembele, Ethan Laird, and Lee Buchanan.
However, the Achilles’ heel for Birmingham remains their lack of clinical finishing. This long-standing issue haunted them throughout the game, highlighting the need for greater efficiency in front of goal. With 26 shots and 6 shots on target. As well the defensive frailty under Rooney’s tenure was glaringly evident. Conceding three goals in quick succession exposed vulnerabilities in the backline, with both Ruddy and Aiwu committing costly errors. Blackburn exploited defensive gaps, raising concerns about the team’s solidity at this level of football.
Rooney’s tactical approach, while showcasing positives, also revealed inherent weaknesses. For his style to succeed, there must be a “ying and yang” approach whilst maintain an positive / attacking system. An delicate balance between a solid defence and efficient attack. If one doesn’t work, the other would struggle. For example:
- Attacking > Defending; Although the attacking element would work, the team would be susceptible to counterattacks and defensive lapses, which can punished the team and that has been the case for Rooney’s style of football.
- Defending > Attacking; leads to a dreary and disheartening style of football, resulting in 0-0 draws or narrow losses, echoing the tragic football style of former manager Aitor Karanka.
As it is still early in Rooney’s managerial tenure, there is optimism for improvement in the coming months. The next fixture is at home against Rotherham United, in what is on paper a winnable game. Strengthening the defence and fine-tuning the balance between attack and defence will be crucial for Birmingham’s success in the Championship. But I’m honestly worry on how we’d play against team that are similar or better than us. We are far too easy to score against, and in the Championship, you can’t be in that position to be vulnerable in defence, nor be in a position to not be clinical in attack.