Since the Carling Cup victory over the Villa, one win and two draws in the League have been accompanied by a further two defeats. Inconsistency has once again plagued Blues and it was typical of their fortunes this term that the Boxing Day clash against Everton which was due to go ahead by all accounts, was postponed due to a frozen pipe.
The Christmas time is always a hectic time of year, but from Blues' perspective, they may well be a method behind the 'madness'. Numerous managers in the top division have bemoaned the absence of a winter break in recent weeks, but the quick succession of games has changed the face of our Premier League. The sack race has reached its disasterous peak, Chelsea have been thrown out of the title race, Man City have been thrown from crisis to crisis and Villa have dropped into the bottom 3 (good times).
For Blues, the double header of Man United and Arsenal at home was always going to be tricky, and it was made even harder by the drop of the club into the bottom 3 for the first time this season. The late kick-off did Blues a disservice in this regard, but a tremendous battling performance was crucial in lifting spirits and holding onto the belief that we belong in this division. Blues were unlucky to go behind to smashing strike from the in form Berbatov, but Blues battled on and pushed forward and a delightful cross from Roger Johnson was nodded down (with the um..arm) by Nikola Zigic and the seemingly evergreen Lee Bowyer ran in and finished well to secure Blues a point and a place once again outside of the bottom three.
However, if the United draw helped Bluenoses to hold onto some home and positivity, the Arsenal game seemed as if it was doing everything possible to eradicate every last ounce of positive thinking. Blues were simply outplayed by the better side, and even though you can argue that they were denied a bit of luck (Van Persie's easy fall and handball), they simply lost to the better team. While Blues were lambasted by their rough and ready approach, it was less than funny to see how the national media decided to ignore the fact that Arsenal players gave as good as they got, and in some cases, a little more. A fantastic team, with fantastic players. They play fantastic football, but that doesn't mean they don't play dirty.
It makes you ask the question, when you're that good, why play dirty? Why dive and cheat when you don't need to? When you know that you have a better side, who can take on anyone, is there a need to fall down easily, overreact to challenges and generally do everything which infuriates football fans?
Anyway, another defeat and sadly Blues dropped back into the bottom 3, and few could argue that they did not deserve to be there. It was a terrible start to the New Year but it made the away trip to Blackpool all the more important if Blues were to move onwards and upwards. Hleb. Goal. 1-0. But, in true Blues fashion, it wasn't as easy as that. Old boy DJ Campbell came back to haunt his former club. However, there was a twist. Blues' horrible away day record was not to last, and Scott Dann showed all the coolness of a veteran striker to score an ever-so crucial goal in stoppage time to secure vital vital points. The way it turned out, Blues went into the break for the FA Cup as the highest placed of our three local sides, ahead of West Brom and Villa who sit just above the relegation zone.
The Cup competitions have provided Blues with some much needed respite this term, and it looks as if the FA Cup will be no different, as Blues ran out victors over Championship Millwall. Local media reported this as a victory for clinical finishing from the Premier League side, which would surprise any onlooking Bluenoses. Clinical finishing? Us? Don't be silly!
Don't believe it? Well, believe it. Matt Derbyshire was finally given the spot he wanted, up-front, and he rewarded McLeish's faith with a brace that has put all Blues strikers to shame. It seemed as if recent transfer talk has reinvigorated the Blues side, with performances coming from everywhere and everyone, and you know it's a good day when 2 minutes after coming on, even Cameron Jerome scores. Add in a peach of a free-kick from David Murphy, and it was another good day all around.
...That summary may make it look as if this is just the beginning. With West Ham (Cup semi-final) and Villa to come, it looks as if Blues have turned a corner and are about to make a move. Well, maybe. The team are still looking for a bit of consistency, and we are waiting to see if star players such as Alex Hleb will finally make their mark on their season. The cloud that hangs over Seb Larsson also worries me and should worry other Bluenoses.
While we have seen that David Bentley looks set to sign on loan, the Larsson situation is more than worrying. It looks as if Seb will not sign a new deal and he is on the way out, and this could spell trouble. He is one of those players whose heart and soul matches that of what is expected from Blues fans, and you fear that if Seb goes, Blues will lose something, and something very important. They would lose that work ethic and style which is embodied by Alex McLeish's Birmingham City.
While Bentley could be a decent replacement if he regains the form shown during his Blackburn Rovers stint, Blues' need is greater up-front. The Robbie Keane story came as quick as it went, and it looks as if Blues will initially look to Kenny Miller to find a scoring touch. The striker has been excellent in the SPL during the past few years, but the Premier League is a different kettle of fish to the one that Miller left after his spells with Wolves and Derby.
Things have improved in the past week for the club, and it's amazing what a couple of results can do for your confidence. However, the job isn't done yet and Blues need to push on. The Cup semi-final is massive for the club, and they will be desperate to reach the final, and another chance to rewrite our history.
This could be our time. Be loud. Be proud. Fight for everything and pray for that little bit of luck.
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