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Alex McLeish and Birmingham: Success Not An Accident

christian benitez 98990832 300x193 Alex McLeish and Birmingham: Success Not An Accident

Alex McLeish has built the right type of squad to maintain Premier League status. After several consecutive “yoyo” seasons, the Blues appear poised to survive easily this season.

McLeish’s strategy: combine veteran British footballers with one very special bargain buy from CONCACAF. Stephen Carr, who won the 1999 League Cup with Spurs, Kevin Phillips, the one time leading Premier League scorer, former Scotland captain Barry Ferguson, and Lee Carsley give the Blues a veteran leadership few other mid table Premiership sides can match.

The signing of Christian Benitez over the summer from Santos Laguna in the Mexican League gave McLeish the sort of useful striker that sides that fight relegation need. I watched Benitez countless time in the Mexican League and continental competitions, and I am not surprised he has fit in perfectly in the Premier League. He’s not an out and out goal scorer but does the type of work off the ball that makes everyone else’s job easier.

The signs of a solid campaign were present earlier this season. Birmingham was unlucky to lose a late draw at White Hart Lane, missed a penalty to beat Manchester City and was cheated out of a victory at Anfield by David N’Gog’s criminal dive.

Since that Liverpool disappointment, where a three point away victory was stolen from the Blues, the side has been impressive. As of this writing, the relegation favorites have stabilized into a mid table club. In fact, McLeish’s side is substantially closer to a Champions League spot than to the relegation zone.

For the way the side has been constructed and its recent play, McLeish deserves strong consideration as one of the top managers this season in the Premier League. Birmingham has not just gotten results, but plays some of the best tactical and counter attacking football in the division.

I’m a firm believer that possession statistics are useless in football. This season’s Birmingham City club proves just that. Often times, the Blues concede the midfield to the opposition, but keep a good shape at the back with proper spacing. This comes not only from having an outstanding tactical manager in McLeish, but veteran players who understand their roles and how to stall matches in order to achieve results.

Birmingham is a team to keep an eye on during the remainder of the Premier League season.

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC. View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →
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9 Responses to Alex McLeish and Birmingham: Success Not An Accident

  1. Raatzie says:

    Given Hull’s ups and downs last year, this is a bit premature.

    That said, Lee Bowyer FTMFW.

  2. The Gaffer says:

    I’ve been impressed by Birmingham City’s form of late where they have gotten into the habit of winning successive games, but the shame is that their live games haven’t been shown much on television this season. I’ve seen so much of Burnley, Portsmouth and Hull City, but not so much Birmingham City.

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

  3. john says:

    I wouldnt go as far of saying McLeish is a tactical genius but at least he has instilled in his team a clear plan of the way he wants his team to play and they have spent alot of time on defensive organisation.
    one thing i would give him credit for is his scouting network in gettin C Benitez, an outside contender for player of the year, he looks to me like a poor mans carlos tevez, which should be a complimen. and also David Munphy , and Scott Dann, Birminghams most consistant perforemers
    How far do you think C Benitez can go?

  4. The Gaffer says:

    On a separate but related note, where are the Birmingham City fans? Are there any in America? I don’t think I’ve ever come across one so far.

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

  5. Dom says:

    Birmingham City fan here. Whilst I’m glad we’re getting some credit around the world as we are officially top of the EPL form table. Christian ‘Chucho’ Benitez is a lively player who I feel is still adjusting to the EPL. He has some bad points to him such as he goes down far to easily for my liking and when he gets the ball he tends to get his head down and dribble with it and by the time he looks up the oppurtunity has been wasted.

    Still he’s only 23 and the more games he plays the better he will become I feel. He needs a striker that has more quality than Cameron Jerome and I feel that we need a tall striker who will give us more power in the air.

    However Benetiz may find himself on the bench come January McLeish will most likely bring in 2 strikers with the transfer funds we now have Birmingham City fan here. Whilst I’m glad we’re getting some credit around the world as we are officially top of the EPL form table. Christian ‘Chucho’ Benitez is a lively player who I feel is still adjusting to the EPL. He has some bad points to him such as he goes down far to easily for my liking and when he gets the ball he tends to get his head down and dribble with it and by the time he looks up the oppurtunity has been wasted.

    Still he’s only 23 and the more games he plays the better he will become I feel. He needs a striker that has more quality than Cameron Jerome and I feel that we need a tall striker who will give us more power in the air.

    However Benetiz may find himself on the bench come January McLeish will most likely bring in 2 strikers with the transfer funds we now have availble.

    KRO

  6. Cameron says:

    The Strikers got off to a slow start this year, but if you look in recent games they have been in fine form, Jerome is creating plenty of opportunities that will fall for him in the coming weeks, and Benitez is starting to feel more comfortable. I think BCFC will be hard pressed to find a more talented striker in their price range then Benitez, but could do with a better target man.

  7. Dr RMA says:

    Blues will no doubt stay up, they have a very resiliant squad, and Christian Benitez looks very good. However they won’t keep these results coming all season, I think they will finish around 10th/11th. Good luck to ‘em though, except on derby day. McLeish is doing a good job.

  8. Jon says:

    What is the long-term sustainability plan for Birmingham? I agree Kartik that McLeish has done a very good job of managing the club from it’s previous “yo-yo” position to one where they look like their odds of staying up are good (it’s still early and we all remember Hull from last year, but they are well-positioned). I totally agree that McLeish has done just what is required: he came in with a clear plan on how to stay up both tactically and from a personnel perspective, and executed that plan to near perfection.

    But they will need a long term sustainability plan too. A lot of the veteran core that was brought in for leadership is nearing its expiration date. Players like Ferguson and Carr can’t have much left. And Joe Hart, who has been very solid in the keeper position, is a loanee from Manchester City.

    Obviously, it is too early to divine exactly how Birmingham’s future will shake out because of the new money potentially available from the sale of the club to an owner who is willing to invest. I would be interested, though, on your and other’s views as to what will be done in the next phase for the club, which is to develop a strategy and player plan to maintain Premiership status for the longer term rather than one or two seasons.

    That can be tricky water to navigate and has risks – if you invest too early in youth players and academies, they are not ready and you can be relegated again, but if you wait too long on your veterans, then they expire and you can be relegated again. Do McLeish and Yeung have the acumen to build into the next phase?

  9. Dom says:

    You raise intersting points Jon. The new board have stated that they intend to support the academy. This is welcomed news for all blues fans as the only premier league players that we have produced in recent years are Andrew Johnson and Craig Fagan. Looking at the players that we are currently being linked with it looks as if we will be going for European talent. McLeish has a tendancy to sign players who are seemingly on the ‘scrapheap’ but then polishes them up so they are playing at their best ability. I wouldn’t suprise me at all if we sign players like Alan Smith at Newcastle. So to summarize I think McLeish will continue to buy players in their prime (24-30). I think I speak for 90% of BCFC fans when I say that I trust McLeish with his transfers. They may seem odd at first, such as Stephen Carr coming out of retirement, Blackburn EPL failure Barry Ferguson and signing 2 unproven defenders from Championship teams in Scott Dann and Roger Johnson. These are all Birmingham’s top performers in my books so let McLeish do his thing and trust him all the way!

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