As ever, I’m starting to get a little nervous ahead of the big kick-off on Saturday afternoon. I’m always nervous for the first game of the season, always have been and guess I always will be, but this year I’m especially nervous.
A lot of that, I think, has to do with how Daniel Farke had his team playing last season and I’m concerned that it will carry on without any real change this season.
The possession-based game is how he wants to play and if you read VN, then you’ll know that I too am a fan of this style of football, BUT there needs to be a cutting-edge, an incisive thrust that ultimately ends up with the ball in the opposition’s net.
That didn’t happen enough last year and several bits of Farke’s formula concern me other than just scoring.
Of course, scoring goals is vital to the success of any team and last season, City had the third highest stat for shots at goal. However, we were nowhere near the top three for shots actually on target.
Perhaps that was down to Nelson Oliveira and his shoot from anywhere and any distance policy. He tried so many times to score from ridiculous angles and positions, as well as when others were better placed, that I can’t help but think that Rhodes and Pukki will be better equipped to score those goals.
Nelson is now so far down the pecking order that a move away is the only solution for both player and club, although no-one seems to be ready to offer £12m for him this summer, funny that.
My biggest concerns are perhaps around the formation Farke will play on Saturday. I reckon he’s going to go 4-1-4-1 and that holding defensive midfielder needs to be the main man to link the play and win the ball, providing an insurance policy for the back four.
I don’t think Tom Trybull is the man to play that role on his own. In a 4-2-3-1 he’s shown that he’s very capable alongside an enforcer like Alex Tettey but on his own? He worries me.
If I were Farke, I would play either Ben Godfrey or more likely, Louis Thompson, there as the sole holding midfielder. Thompson has been a revelation in pre-season and looked like the real deal, which is no big surprise to me.
Louis has always been good, whenever I’ve seen him, although his Norwich career has been cruelly held back by injury for so long. Having him back is genuinely like having a new signing. He can stick his foot in and he’s a decent passer too.
Super Tommy Trybull is also an excellent passer of the ball and I like him a lot but defensively, I don’t think he’s quite as nails as Louis. Maybe I’m doing him a disservice but Charlton mobbed him on Saturday and he was overrun at times. That could be the biggest problem with the 4-1-4-1 but maybe you just need the right player there. Round pegs and all that.
Mo Leitner doesn’t sound like he’s done enough in pre-season and that worries me as well.
His ability is not in question. He has the sort of natural game that has probably made his path to professional football a fairly smooth one. I’m only saying that because I’ve always been envious of those sort of players that I’ve met in pub teams, never mind at the sort of rarified level these top pros inhabit.
Some players have to really work at being a good footballer and some just have “it”. For every Wes Hoolahan who has incredible natural skill, there are a hundred Bradley Johnsons, who have really had to work hard to achieve their dream.
Mo has seen the Championship at first hand and should be used to what is required and there shouldn’t be any surprises for him. So much so, he was more than happy to join our Championship club and leave the Bundesliga.
Having all the ability in the world won’t help you though if you don’t work hard. This league is relentless and will chew up anybody who doesn’t work their socks off. Daniel Farke is highly likely to regularly play Mo and make him the heartbeat of the side, the metronome keeping time in the middle. Mo, you’re going to need to be on it, you know that, don’t you?
I watched a very interesting little video from the EDP’s Michael Bailey yesterday in which he provides his own starting XI for Birmingham and the XI that he thinks Daniel Farke will pick.
It’s well worth a watch and Michael makes some excellent points. I prefer his 3-4-3 to the 4-1-4-1 but I wouldn’t play James Husband at left back. With Jamal Lewis not fully fit, I’d put Marco Stiepermann there because Husband has never really shown that he’s up to the job and the fact that he was kept out of the side by a left-footed central midfielder for long periods last season spoke volumes.
Don’t forget that Marco also had to adjust to a new country and all the upheaval that goes with it, as well. I’ve not seen Max Arrons play this summer but might even use him there , a right footed defender, if Lewis isn’t available.
Personally, I think I’d go for a 5-3-2 formation and as Saturday approaches, I’ll give you my starting line up, if I was in charge.
Am I worrying about nothing?
I’d love to get a sense of what the rest of you are thinking, so leave a comment.