Championship Gameweek 15: Garry Monk’s Blues to Continue Their Fine Form5 min read
Jos Luhukay has done a reasonable job at Sheffield Wednesday. Since inheriting an injury-plagued squad threatened with relegation, he kept the Owls up and turned them into top half contenders, without making a single permanent addition in 10 months.
The Dutchman has got the best out of Adam Reach who, earlier in his career was a direct winger, yet now his left-foot is being used to produce moments of magic in central areas; the 25-year-old has scored four goals this season, including stunners against West Brom and Leeds.
Each of Reach’s goals though have come from outside the box, as have nine of the team’s 20 goals in total; while Wednesday’s capacity to score stunners is to be applauded, it isn’t necessarily sustainable.
Nottingham Forest, who scored a lot of their early season goals in 2017-18 in similar circumstances, were four points off the play-offs at this stage yet finished 22 points adrift.
The better teams can regularly create clear goalscoring opportunities and there’s reason to think these long-range individual strikes mask imperfections in the Owls, who have managed just 66 shots from inside the penalty area this season; the fewest in the Championship.
Although Luhukay often picks two of three tall strikers in Lucas Joao, Steven Fletcher and Atdhe Nuhiu, the strategy is normally about playing out from the back which, not helped by frequent changes to personnel, is an art they are yet to perfect.
That could be where Birmingham come to the fore. The Midlanders are far better at pressing under Garry Monk; forward Che Adams runs the channels superbly, midfielder Gary Gardner is proving an excellent addition on loan from Aston Villa and his partner, Maikel Kieftenbeld, plays on turbo-charge.
— Rich Swainson (@Swaino) October 25, 2018
Under Harry Redknapp and then Steve Cotterill, Blues would typically allow opponents lots of space in the middle and look to deny space in the defensive third, which meant when they did turn the ball over, they were too far back to set up any attacks.
Under the current regime, they are playing with far more confidence; Jota, for example, has attempted the second most dribbles in the division with 44.
Monk, who so often names an unchanged side, is likely to only make one forced change for this match with Connor Mahoney coming in for Jacques Maghoma.
Mahoney, a very skilful, elusive wide man on loan from Bournemouth, has an excellent opportunity to show his quality in a side that has taken 180 shots this season – the seventh-most in the Championship – with 95 coming from inside the box.
Lukasz Jutkiewicz is enjoying a purple patch with six goals in his last five and represents an enticing anytime goalscorer option at 7/5, but we’ll be ambitious with our best bet.
Birmingham have gone under the radar somewhat with their 10-game unbeaten run but it may be soon that they establish themselves as promotion contenders with an eye-catching victory and, against an Owls side yet to keep a clean sheet in a Championship match this season, that could come on Saturday.
Birmingham and Over 3.5 goals