After some impressive transfers and keeping hold of key players, Birmingham will be looking to avoid the infamous second season syndrome.
Last season’s impressive ninth place finish means nothing now as Alex McLeish’s side look to improve and steer clear of the relegation worries that come with a second season after promotion to the English Premier League. They’ve certainly done the right thing by keeping the majority of their squad, with Lee Carsley and Franck Queudrue the only relatively big names to leave St. Andrews. As well as keeping their best players, City have also strengthened in the right areas with very good signings. England hopeful Ben Foster has joined from Manchester United for £6 million, with the goalkeeper looking to improve his chances of becoming England number one by playing more first team football. McLeish needed to improve in the goalkeeping area after last season’s hero, Joe Hart, returned to parent club Manchester City after a hugely successful loan spell. Another big signing for Birmingham is the capture of Nikola Zigic. The big striker, who is well known all over the world for his strength in the air and determination on the ground, has signed from Valencia for a fee that mirrors that of Foster’s. Zigic is likely to partner either James McFadden or Cameron Jerome up front, with both strikers putting in good performances last season. Between them they scored sixteen goals in the league in the 2009/2010 season, with McFadden acting as the creative spark for McLeish’s team. The flair, agility and awareness on the ball of the Scot could be the perfect partner to the pure strength and potency of Zigic.
At the back, Birmingham look relatively strong. Liam Ridgewell, Roger Johnson and Stephen Carr are all experienced defenders and looked good last season. Scott Dann looks to be turning to a great purchase from Coventry as the 23 year old looks to improve on last season’s 30 appearances. The defensive strength is backed up further by the quality behind them in the form of Foster.
The main weakness of the Brum, though, is the midfield. The quality of Barry Ferguson and Sebastian Larsson is overshadowed by the fact that they have very little in terms of pace down the wings. Larsson’s crossing ability and Ferguson’s experience and quality on the ball will make not make an impact if there are no passing opportunities available. Lee Bowyer is the closest thing the Midlands side have to a winger and he can hardly be described as speedy. As long as McLeish’s side keep it tight and do what they did last season they should be fine.
Where will they finish?: 13th
Official relegation odds: 7/1 (Bet365)
Star man: James McFadden
One to watch: Scott Dann
Main weakness: Lack of pace