Birmingham City 0-0 Swansea City Six Things: encouraging night for Blues

Pedersen and Asoro duel – @BCFC

Despite an impressive performance, Birmingham City were held to a 0-0 draw by Swansea City at St Andrews on Friday night. Here’s six things from the game.

Birmingham’s dominance

Garry Monk’s side pressed superbly. Omar Bogle harried with the vigour one would expect from a player making his home debut for his boyhood club while physical strike-partner Lukasz Jutkiewicz caused problems for Mike Van Der Hoorn. The target man’s flick-ons helped bring in the likes of Jota, who looked up for the fight on the right as well as showing his undoubted quality, while Jacques Maghoma had the beating of Connor Roberts. The aggressive Maikel Kieftenbeld was everywhere and his midfield partner, Gary Gardner, was quick to second balls; the duo looked far more competitive than Swansea’s midfielders, Jay Fulton, Tom Carroll and Bersant Celina. Such clear control of those central areas meant that by the interval, Birmingham had taken 14 shots: more than any team has managed in one half of football in the Championship this season.

Swansea off the hook

How then, was it 0-0 at the interval? There’s three reasons: firstly, the hosts were slightly wasteful. Jutkiewicz slot just wide of the far post when played through superbly by Jota, then Maghoma also had a presentable opening but dragged off-target from a tight angle. Secondly, Erwin Mulder made some good saves, most notably denying Bogle from close-range. Thirdly, Michael Morrison would have broke the first half deadlock with a header, were he not adjudged to have been in an offside position when Harlee Dean’s initial effort was stopped.

Potter’s change of plan

In the first half, Swansea maintained their strategy of playing out from the back, even when it regularly saw them got caught out on the half-way line due to the poor quality of passing. In the second half, that changed. Graham Potter noticed the discomfort of his players and switched to a more direct 4-4-1-1 system, effectively compromising his philosophy to escape with a point. That, in many ways, is a clear barometer of Birmingham’s display.

Olsson’s crucial challenge

Although the intensity of the home side’s performance did periodically plateau after the break, as was to be expected, they finished the match with one final surge.¬†Maghoma once again beat Roberts and crossed to the far post where Jutkiewicz was ready to finish, but Martin Olsson bailed out centre-back Joe Rodon by getting to the ball just before the striker and deflecting behind. So close, yet so far.

Patience needed at Swansea?

Swansea fans are not too happy with the board for the asset-stripping of key players and the lack of investment in replacing them; that perhaps played a factor in tonight’s performance. Graham Potter is admirably committed to developing youngsters, but the downside to this reliance on youth is that they might not have the confidence to implement his ideas in testing conditions. For that reason, while Swansea undoubtedly have the right man in Potter, circumstances mean it might take time for his methods to take effect.

Encouraging night for Blues

Birmingham, themselves, have had their summer disrupted by off-field issues and, due to FFP, have not been able to externally improve the squad quite as Garry Monk might have liked. This season, therefore, will be about producing competitive performances to ensure that the building blocks are in place once funds become available. This might not be the ideal result, but the display represents a small step forward.