BCFC: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Defeat to Norwich City at Carrow Road on Tuesday evening extended Birmingham City’s winless run to five games. Chances were at a premium for Blues and the sending off of Adam Clayton for a second bookable offence turned out to be the prelude to the only goal of the game. Yet there are reasons that Blues fans should be patient.

St Andrew's taken 26 December 2018

I’m not going to lie, I found the game painful to watch.

Having spoken to a friend who is a Canaries fan before the game I knew that Norwich would create chances – however taking them has been a different story and thus it proved again in this game.

My hope was always that Blues would hit Norwich on the counter, getting the ball forwards quickly enough to create the chances which would make Norwich’s profligacy in front of goal costly.

It just didn’t happen.

Scott Hogan looked as short of confidence as he was of service, while the busy Jonathan Leko’s passing wasn’t quite up to the quality of his dribbling and running.

It’s been the story of the season so far. Goals have been at a premium; in ten and a half hours of football in League and Cup Blues are yet to score from open play.

However, I think some of the more hyperbolic fans on social media need to put the Valium and razor blades away for now.

Over the last five seasons, Blues have had different managers each year. I wanted to compare how Aitor Karanka has done against other recent Blues bosses in recent times to see if things are really that bad.

I took a look at the first six league games of each manager’s season to give the table below.

Manager Table

Mark Twain popularised the notion that “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics” – and this table in my eyes proves that.

On the face of it Pep Clotet would seem to have been a successful head coach – and yet we all know how that season went. A flukey win against Brentford and a comeback win against Stoke City featuring Blues youngest ever goalscorer Jude Bellingham make his figures look much than I remember that time being.

Likewise, Garry Monk looks like a complete failure; however I remember there being hope around the ground because Blues were playing well and just not getting the breaks.

The fact is that six games are a very small sample size – one that is too small to properly judge the fate of the whole season on. This is especially true when you consider factors such as the huge turnover of players within the squad, and the sheer size of the morale problem Karanka will have faced when he walked in the door.

Of course, the current Blues board have already pulled the trigger on a manager after a horrific start to a season – one which involved a large turnover of players and a lot of hope in the preceding summer that it was to be a bright new future.

Harry Redknapp only lasted eight games at the start of the 2017-18 season – and while his team couldn’t score either, things were very different then from how they are now.

Then, there was an obvious lack of fitness within the squad which resulted in a pile of muscle injuries; while morale among the squad was also poor after insensitive comments made by Redknapp in interviews.

Despite the whole ongoing coronavirus thing, which among other things has robbed Karanka of an attacking mainstay in Lukas Jutkiewicz for a couple of games, Blues have not looked unfit.

It seems obvious that there has been a massive amount of work on trying to get defensive shape and organisation right which will hopefully bear fruit for Blues in the future.

In short, while it is painful to watch, and Blues are undoubtedly lacking in forward areas, patience is required.

Karanka was signed on for a three-year contract, and we all knew the scale of the task at the start of the season.

As fans we need to accept that it’s not going to be pretty for a while because there is so much that needs to be fixed; and we need to accept that a long-term plan is just that – for the long term.

The alternative is yet another period of uncertainty and anarchy, which could this time see Blues finally go down the relegation plughole.