This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Time for something a bit radical?
With the suspension of Harlee Dean being upheld, fans have been debating who should fill the skipper’s spot in his absence, all under the assumption that it will be a one in, one out change.
However, there’s one possibility that hasn’t been talked about, and that’s whether or not Pep Clotet might change formation.
Whilst the Blues have played predominantly with a 4-4-2 system this season, they did experiment with three at the back during pre-season early in the campaign.
Clotet has spoken about how he likes his team to be flexible, so it’s not like it’s something that they haven’t practiced before.
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Changing from a 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2/5-3-2 (depending on where you list your wing-backs/wingers) is a relatively simple job. Take the line-up from the Cardiff game; Camp; Colin, Pedersen, Dean, Roberts; Crowley, Bellingham, Sunjic, Villalba; Mrabti, Jutkiewicz as the starting point, then go from there.
One of the central midfielders will have to drop out to make way for the extra central defender. Whoever the defenders might be doesn’t matter, Clotet will know who his third and fourth choice centre-backs are on the depth chart and where they’ll be slotted in.
That will mean that the wingers Crowley and Villalba will tuck inside to play alongside Ivan Sunjic, but seeing as Crowley spent most of his career centrally, he shouldn’t have a problem playing there again.
You swap out Villalba and keep Bellingham in the middle with Sunjic, and at the same the full-backs just turn into wing-backs.
So Birmingham absolutely have the capability to pull this off in their captain’s absence, it’s just whether or not Clotet is brave enough to try it out.
It sort of comes back to Paul Merson’s comments from the summer in regards to Harry Maguire moving to Manchester United and how he looked good playing for England, “When you play in a three at the back, you play at three in the back for one reason only, the defenders aren’t good enough”.
There’s certainly an argument to be made that they aren’t good enough this season, conceding 20 goals and only keeping four clean sheets during the whole campaign, so perhaps this is something to think about not just for this week, but going forward as well.