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Comment: Dean-Roberts transformation highlights particular Karanka pitfall at Birmingham City

Birmingham City’s Championship status has been confirmed going into next season, after what’s been a turbulent campaign for the club.

The story of Birmingham City’s season has been one of two managers – the dull and depressing football of Aitor Karanka which nearly brought League One football to the club, compared to the widely positive and exciting stuff brought in by Lee Bowyer.

Coming in from Charlton Athletic last month, Bowyer has since claimed five wins from his opening eight games at the helm, racking up 17 points in total to leave Blues with a 13-point gap to the bottom three, and with two games of the season to spare.

The transformation has been incredible and no two players have benefited from the managerial change as much as Marc Roberts and Harlee Dean.


Blues’ centre-pairing were the usual scapegoats under Karanka. They looked devoid of any sort of confidence, playing in a side over-flooded with tactical instructions as to make them and their teammates extremely unsettled when on the ball.

Now, with a pat on the back from Bowyer and a more simplistic objective on the pitch, Dean and Roberts look like prime Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol – they’re brimming with confidence, passing the ball around like never before and scoring goals.

Some Blues fans have even made ‘Player of the Season’ calls about Roberts who, of the two, might have experienced the most drastic upturn in form.

He started the season on the bench and would have to work hard to make his way into Karanka’s starting line-up. He subsequently struggled and was dropped back out of the side briefly. But since Bowyer’s arrival, he alongside Dean have been the club’s two standout performers.

Points are plentiful for Birmingham City at the moment. But attention must be paid to the defensive record since Bowyer’s appointment – four clean sheets from eight, having conceded six goals in those eight games.

Under Karanka, pitfalls were plentiful. Roberts spoke in an interview earlier in the campaign about how tactically-driven Karanka was and that ‘obsession’ with tactics and playing his way shot the players of confidence – a theme that underlined the whole squad pre-Bowyer.

Hopes are rightfully high going into the next season and Bowyer deserves a huge amount of praise for the way he’s so easily transformed individual performances, as to bring about more positivity overall – Dean and Roberts are just the tip of the iceberg.

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