Defenceless

Adrian at the Carling Cup final at Wembley in 2011

Bournemouth 3 – Birmingham City 1

Wednesday February 9 2022

Blues fell to defeat on the South Coast last night in another of those games where it could equally have been much worse or much better.

Taking chances as they came along and individual errors were the difference between the teams. Blues looked good going forward for decent periods of the game, but a defence bereft of central defenders always threatened to implode every time promotion-chasing Bournemouth came at us.

Such was the lack of centre-halves – none signed in the window, two let go on loan, two injured before the game, one during – that at one stage the back four consisted of two full backs playing in the centre and two wingers at full back – not the ideal recipe for defensive solidarity.

But rather than the shape of the the defence, it was individual errors that really did for Blues.

With the knowledge that on top of Friend’s injury, Roberts had been ruled out and that we were moving back to three central defenders featuring two full backs most Blues fans approached this game with extreme trepidation, especially as the majority will remember the 8-0 at our place to these opponents not so long and a lifetime ago.

Blues started off ok. For the first quarter of an hour they gave as good as they got with both teams getting forward well.

We were brought down to earth by the first of the individual errors that littered our game. The defence was put under pressure following another poor clearance with his feet by Etheridge (surely the GK coach should be working to improve this), the ball came back into the box and Pedersen instead of hoofing the ball clear just presented it to a Bournemouth forward in the box and before you knew it the ball was in the back of the net.

Within a few minutes, another glaring schoolboy error looked to have put the game out of sight.

I despair when I see professional footballers who lack the basic skills to do their job. Two of those skills are the ability to get the ball under control and being able to pass it to a teammate, even one five yards away.

For a £6m player, Sunjic has consistently showed an inability to master either of these skills. Why we paid that amount of money for a player to replace cheapies Kieft and Davis who were equally unable to control or pass a ball but had the requisite running around and getting stuck in attributes, I’ll never know.

Under no pressure in the centre of midfield, Sunjic let an easy ball run under his foot, releasing Bournemouth on the counter attack and the rest was inevitable. Shockingly bad play from the Croatian.

But for a glaring miss, Blues could have been back in it just before half time. Pedersen again. This time he capped his dreadful first half by not connecting properly with a ball floated into the box when he was free about six yards from goal.

Managers often bemoan a lack of consistency in their players and teams. But for many footballers and teams consistency comes by playing pretty much the same pattern from game to game, Liverpool and Man City, for instance, don’t really change their basic set up that much, albeit they are very fluid within the shape.

Blues have been constantly chopping and changing personnel (we’ve use the most number of players in the division this season) and the shape. We did it before the game, just when you thought the 4-diamond-2 was the way to go, and changed it again at half time, going to a flat back four.

Again they looked steadier with four at the back and got up a head of steam and pushed forward when Hernandez, mystifyingly left out here (you find a formation that gets your best players on the pitch), came on.

Lerma lunged at Hernandez at a knee-high level for a deserved red card after the Cuban had started tormenting the Bournemouth defence down their left-hand side. It wasn’t long after this that Hernandez pulled one back with a shot from just inside the box, albeit with a heavy deflection from one of parachute-payment-powered Bournemouth’s latest recruits, Philips from Liverpool.

“Of course, with Blues it’s the hope that kills you.”

Of course, with Blues it’s the hope that kills you. Only one behind and a man to the good and playing well going forward, thoughts turned to a shock point or more.

Chances were being created. None better than when the ball was swept into the box to an unmarked Jukey whose shot was too straight and allowed the keeper to make a good save. Should have given him no chance, though.

Being Blues you always felt that the sucker punch wasn’t too far away. And it duly arrived soon after Jukey’s miss. Anthony was allowed to run through the centre of our defence whilst our defenders were falling over themselves to create a path through for the forward to get a clear shot on goal. 3 – 1, game over, hope extinguished.

Our attacking play has improved considerably with the January recruitment. But for glaring misses we could have had three or four last night. It’s just with the state of the defence it looks like that’s what we’ll need every game to get anything out of them.

Oh, #BSHLOUT.

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