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Birmingham City’s worrying run leading into the international break gave Lee Bowyer plenty to think about ahead of next week’s clash with West Bromwich Albion.
The Blues’ head coach sent his players off to their short rest with not so much flea in their ears as an angry horn.
Last weekend’s 3-0 home return to Nottingham Forest did not go down well, as Bowyer saved his team’s defense and accused some players of complacency.
He threatened to use the election ax – how real that threat was, we find out at The Hawthorns at 7pm on Friday 15 October.
So predicting what XI will take the field against the Baggies may not be as straightforward as usual.
Blues writer Brian Dick has it all figured out – and so can you.
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Bowyer has been firm in his adherence to a back three, midfield four and front two, insisting that it is not formations that have caused the recent results as much as the individual performances within 3-4-1-2- the system.
That belief was confirmed by data compiled by Blues_breakdown on behalf of BirminghamLive, which showed that the Blues actually create scoring chances and limit the opposition – contrary to what the scoreboard might show.
And since Valerien Ismael prefers a 3-4-3 system for West Brom, it would come as no surprise to see Bowyer come close to matching it.
GK / defense
Goalkeeping coach Andy Marshall suggested that Neil Etheridge is not yet at the point where he can challenge Matija Sarkic, but suggested that moment was close.
The composition of the three backs is not quite as simple, but given what Bowyer said about making changes, it would be a surprise if Dion Sanderson did not get on the page. But who for?
Harlee Dean and Marc Roberts seem to be under the most pressure after the last couple of games, with Roberts in particular battling against both Forest and QPR.
Nevertheless, the 31-year-old boasts the long throw that could help against Albion and may be less exposed in the middle of the three, with Sanderson and Kristian Pedersen on either side of him.
READ MORE: Birmingham City predicted XI vs West Brom – A new role for Chong and changes in defense
Dan Crowley admits he has had a difficult summer looking for a new club following the release of Birmingham City.
The attacking midfielder left the Blues after two seasons at St Andrew’s, ending last season on loan at Hull City.
After 45 appearances, he was not offered new terms and spent a nomadic low season trying to maintain fitness while seeking his next option.
After missing out on a deal with one of the Blues’ Championship rivals, Crowley signed a short-term contract with Cheltenham Town, for whom he had played in pre-season and made his competitive debut in the EFL Trophy match against Exeter on Tuesday.
Subsequently, he talked about how challenging the last few months had been.
“I was here a few months ago but just could not get it done,” Crowley told the Cheltenham website.
“I was tired of not signing here because it’s a good set of guys, a good staff, you do not get around so much in football. Therefore, I was disappointed that it did not happen a few months ago.
“But last week I got a call from my agent who said Cheltenham are interested again.
“I just couldn’t wait to get it done to be honest and play. So it’s happened pretty quickly, but I’m glad to be here.
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“It’s been a little crazy to be honest, I was in Villa and then Arsenal and then went out to Holland. Came back to Birmingham and didn’t play much last season so it was tough.
“Football is not a smooth sailing, you just have to keep believing in yourself. It’s until January, so it’s short term, but if I’m feeling good here for the first few months, who knows what’s going to happen.
“I love playing in front of a crowd, last season was just boring – dead. I like to feed the crowd, get buzz in the stadium, get the fans on their feet, that’s what I enjoy doing – that’s why I play football. ”
READ MORE: ‘Gutted’ Dan Crowley opens after a summer ‘in the park’ after Birmingham City release
When Manchester United’s form had left them, Ole Gunnar Solskjær has plenty on his plate.
Issues such as Cristiano Ronaldo’s workload, the demands on his many international players and the planning of how they will overcome Leicester City in their absence on Saturday week, will all be at the forefront of the Norwegian.
However, Tahith Chong has revealed that the United boss has maintained contact with him during his loan spell with Birmingham City.
The 21-year-old has made a very positive impression in his first quarter season at St Andrew’s — and if his total number of goals and an assist is a little below par, his work speed and commitment to the cause has certainly not been.
Chong is in the final year of his contract at Old Trafford, but any concern he had been sent to the Blues to bid for time is misplaced given the communication he has with his parent club.
And in an interview with manutd.com, Chong revealed that Solskjær is still interested in him.
“It is always nice to hear from him and that he also sees the matches. It is well. The coaches and staff are of course in contact after the matches, ”he said.
“I have Darren Fletcher and Kieran [McKenna] and as I say, even the manager sometimes sends me text messages. You know, after matches, it can be a ‘well done’ or ‘well done, you can improve this and that’, and to be honest, the contact has been very good.
“That [Parry] has called and I think he has even been in most matches. It’s nice, too, to have it, to stay in touch, and sometimes we analyze and talk about the games. ”
For his part, Chong’s attention has turned to the upcoming visit to The Hawthorns on Friday, October 15th.
“Especially where we are [in the league], it’s about taking that game by game really and step by step. Our focus is on the next match, which is West Brom, and we want the points and deliver a good performance there. This is where the mindset is at the moment.
“I myself will really continue to improve my performance and learn from the mistakes I have made in previous matches, and try not to do so in the game. I will try to keep doing the good things. ”