As much in the head as the boots

Adrian at the Carling Cup final at Wembley in 2011

Blues 0 – Cambridge 1

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Few signs of improvement in Aitor Karanka’s first competitive game in charge which saw Blues, as per usual, going out in the first round of the League Cup. 

As in the previous friendly matches, the defence looked sound and well organised, and that is an improvement on the tail end of last season. The only goal followed a bad misjudgement by the new ‘keeper, Pietro, on a ball slung into the box from a free kick where he came and got nowhere near it, allowing the Cambridge centre half to head into the net. Apart from that Cambridge didn’t really trouble the Blues’ backline. 

Further forward Crowley looked lively. But that was just a continuation of what we saw after the lockdown return, so that couldn’t be classed as an improvement. The only difference was that Crowley was used in the number 10 role, rather than wide. And that is an improvement, as last season, Blues had a tendency to shunt their most creative midfielders out wide and on the periphery of things. Not just Crowley, but Bellingham too. 

The still inconsistent Bela smacked one against the bar from range in the first half to remind us of what he’s capable of, George held up the ball nicely and fed Lakin through in the second half, but, apart from that, it was all a bit tippy-tappy and aimless going forward. And aimless is the word as there wasn’t much for the midfielders to aim at going forward, just young George making his professional debut in the absence of Jukey through injury and no other senior forwards in the club. 

“We need to hold our nerve and trust Karanka”

Of course, we need at least one striker, and another senior goalkeeper, and it’s becoming a bit tiring on Twitter with fans announcing this as if it’s some sort of revelation they’ve just had that the rest of us haven’t spotted. 

There seems to be two schools of thought. One, the owners won’t splash the cash and are just padding the squad out with journeymen, or, two, they are biding their time to get the right man/men. I’m willing to believe it’s the latter. Times are tough and if we’re going to break the bank for a forward or two then the return on investment has to be a long-term one, rather than a Harry-style supermarket sweep. And, yes, this could mean us losing a game or two in the meantime. We need to hold our nerve and trust Karanka. 

For all the talk of new signings, it was of more interest that, after the game, Karanka identified the losing mentality of the players. As well as bringing in new players you can get better by improving those you’ve already got. But Saturday’s defeat showed no signs of that and, as Karanka rightly pointed out, that might be as much in the head as the boots. 

Blues 0 – Cambridge 1

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