Club Focus – Birmingham City – Chelsea end fifteen game unbeaten run

A lot has happened on the blue side of Birmingham in the last few days – Craig Gardner has signed and has joined City for a rumoured fee of £3.5 million. The biggest story, however, has been their defeat to the hands of league leaders Chelsea.

The last fifteen games have encompassed Birmingham’s best period of football, perhaps ever. It has seen the status of a once small club that was never really good enough for the Premier League, jump to a genuine threat to the top half of the table. It has seen them win five games in a row, keep eight clean sheets and defeat the likes of Fulham and Sunderland, two teams that now look to be struggling more than Birmingham were at the start of this unbelievable run. A defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is by no means an embarrassment and Birmingham fans should be proud that their run came to an end at a notoriously difficult ground, arguably the toughest ground to get a result from in recent years. The 3-0 scoreline did not flatter Chelsea and there was an obvious gulf in class between the two sides, but the game did not serve to highlight any particular weakness in their side that was not already known.

As has been the norm this season, they struggled to make any significant inroads upfront with only James McFadden coming close to scoring; they were over-ran by Chelsea’s midfield but this, along with conceding three goals should not be a worry for Alex McLeish or fans. Birmingham are not competing with Chelsea for league positions; of course, if this result and performance came against Everton or Fulham then there would be cause for concern, but Birmingham fans should still expect to get beaten by the top four away.

Birmingham have been playing excellent recently and they have looked very difficult to beat but there is still a massive gap in quality between them and the top five or six teams; any fan that felt letdown at 9:30 Wednesday evening needs to re-evaluate their thoughts on the club. Birmingham have not, and will not, close the gap on the top teams this season and maybe even next season. However, they have closed, and perhaps surpassed teams like Fulham, Sunderland and potentially Everton – for that reason, manager McLeish, the players and the board should be lauded by the fans. It has been nice to note that there have been no grumblings of discontent from fans since the defeat to Chelsea; Birmingham seem to be one of the few clubs that do have realistic expectations for their team and do not jump to conclusions straight after a defeat. Even a defeat to Tottenham on Saturday should not be looked upon with too much disappointment – Birmingham shouldn’t lose a game like that 3-0 and they should match Tottenham to a certain degree but by no means should they expect a result.

The news of Aruna Dindane’s potential arrival may not fill the fans hearts with too much pleasure; Alex McLeish has said the club need a striker but Dindane would not have been on the wish list of many fans, and the fact that he was on the wish list of McLeish is worrying. He has scored only four goals this season and three of those were due to a hat-trick, which means in his 12 appearances in the league this season, he has only scored in two of those games which suggests he does not have the necessary impact to change Birmingham’s timid strike force. Rumours of Roman Pavlyuchenko or still around and have been helped by Tottenham’s acquisition of Eidur Gudjohnsen which implies Harry is desperate to get rid of the Russian. Although he has not been a sparkling success at Tottenham, signing him would show the fans that the club have real ambitions to push on this season rather than stagnating and accepting mid table mediocrity even though for Birmingham that would be a success.

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