OPINION: Birmingham City have fight in them but ‘baffling’ Karanka calls keep conjuring defeats
Birmingham City recorded another loss in the Championship last night, falling to a 3-1 defeat at home to league leaders Norwich City.
Aitor Karanka has now overseen 15 defeats in the Championship this season. Last night, his side welcomed the Championship’s runaway leaders after claiming an all-important win v Sheffield Wednesday last time out, but nobody gave Blues a fighting chance going into last night’s game.
The first half was evenly contested by both sides and Birmingham rightly went into half-time at 1-1. Teemu Pukki had opened the scoring before having a penalty saved by Neil Etheridge, with Ivan Sanchez poking home Birmingham City’s equaliser shortly before half-time.
All was going well for Birmingham City who gave Norwich City a hard time last night. But then Karanka got to work with his infamous substitutions and soon after he took off Rekeem Harper for Mikel San Jose, and Ivan Sanchez for Yan Valery, Norwich City would find themselves back in-front.
It was a typical Karanka move to take off two off his best performers in exchange for some more defensive minded players, all while his side were in the game at 1-1.
Needless to say, a minute after Valery came on for Sanchez, Pukki found his second of the game. But then the tinkerman struck again – he brought on a striker in Lukas Jutkiewicz but at the same time took off Jeremie Bela and replaced him with Marc Roberts.
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That chain of events has happened time and time again for Birmingham City this season. Karanka for whatever reason wants to defend at whatever scoreline, and when he finally is pressured into bringing on a striker, or a target man in Jutkiewicz’s case, he takes off his most creative wide players.
Last night was another prime example of how much Karanka’s substitutions are effecting Birmingham City. Many fans noted the fight and desire of Birmingham City’s players last night, but as soon as the changes came, Norwich kept their foot on the gas and easily took advantage.
For all the criticism that Blues players have faced this season, the problem all along has been the management and Karanka’s major downfall is his lust to finish the game with as many defenders on the pitch as possible – last night, fans counted six defenders on the pitch come full-time.
Birmingham City look as though they have Championship survival in them, but will Karanka allow his players the risk and freedom to fight on until the 90th-minute? Or will he continue to be overtly defensive in his decision-making?
Up next for Blues is the visit of a rejuvenated QPR side at the weekend.