Following the hectic festive schedule, Birmingham City remain in the Championship relegation zone.
Though it's certainty not all doom and gloom following crucial wins over Leeds and Reading, the Blues are in desperate need of recruitment.
Whilst some fans would argue that the club need eleven new players, this is just not realistic.
Steve Cotterill must prioritise well and strengthen key areas to save Blues from the drop to League One.
Let’s look at the 5 positions Steve Cotterill must strengthen in the January transfer window.
5. Centre Midfielder
Cotterill is yet to find his best central midfield pairing after several attempts at rotating. N’Doye has failed to live up to expectation and opinion of him is divided amongst fans. Gardner, whilst a passionate Bluenose, is unfortunately past his best and has done little since Zola brought him back to the Blues in January 2017. Cotterill reinstated Maikel Kieftenbeld to the first team to the fans' approval, although his performances have failed to inspire a turnaround.
The current options seem to be cast from the same mould as defensive minded, with little attacking flair. Cotteril needs to sign a central midfielder who is comfortable on the ball and can create chances for the strikers. A box to box midfielder would add some much needed attacking threat, whilst not leaving us exposed defensively.
You don’t need to be a football guru to know that if you're at the bottom, its because you're not defending well. So its fair to give Birmingham some criticism for their defensive displays this season, or even for the whole of 2017. Having said that, it would be unfair to suggest Birmingham are shipping in goals, with the exception of a 6-1 thrashing from Hull. In reality goals are being conceded due to simple mistakes, a lack of cohesion and misplaced passes.
New signings Marc Roberts and Harlee Dean have taken time to settle in, but seem to now be working well following back to back clean sheets against Leeds and Reading. But with captain Michael Morrison the only other option it would be sensible to sign an additional centre half to provide competition and insurance should there be injuries later in the season.
Cotterill’s favoured formation seems to be a 4-2-3-1 which includes an attacking midfielder in front of the holding two. The problem is, he hasn’t got a natural central attacking midfielder to choose from. Jeremie Boga and record signing Jota are good attacking options, however both are more suited to the wings. Even David Davis and N’Doye have been tested in a more attacking role behind the striker. Needless to say this hasn’t been a huge success.
If Cotterill persists playing a man just off the striker, he may as well recruit someone to improve his current options. Blues have found it difficult to break down defences and find the killer through ball. If Birmingham get the right man in to fix this problem then they’ll stand a better chance of climbing up the table.
Cotterill has talked about the need to address the imbalance of the squad. This is an apparent problem in the full-back positions as Blues currently have four right-backs, but only one regular left-back. At the start of the season Harry Redknapp sent Cheick Kieta on loan to Bologna leaving Jonathan Grounds and Cohen Bramall as the only left backs at the club. Going into 2018 we may as well discount the Arsenal loanee, who only has two appearances to his name this season.
Blues don’t just need competition for Jonathan Grounds, they need to replace him. Grounds has put in a number of poor performances this season as well as being at fault for goals against Wolves, QPR and Fulham in December. A good servant for Blues through some difficult years, but it’s time to find better options.
Birmingham have only managed to score 17 league goals all season, so it’s no surprise a striker or two should be Cotterill's priority. To be fair, Blues have been hit with injuries to the likes of key man Che Adams, and promising talent Isaac Vassell. Both of which looked like a handful when playing together in the win against Cardiff in September. In fact other clubs may try to tempt Adams away from St Andrews in this window, which would be a huge blow.
Elsewhere, Sam Gallagher and Lukas Jutkiewicz have failed to provide a decent amount of goals. Both seem isolated and cause little trouble for opposition defences.
Blues need an all-rounded striker who can score, move defences and bring others into play. Unfortunately these types of players aren’t readily available and have little desire to join a team bottom of the Championship. This is where the board must financially support Cotterill, providing he is able to find the right man.
Early transfer rumours suggest Cotterill is looking at the possibility of bringing back Cameron Jerome from Norwich. Hardly an inspiring signing considering Jerome has only scored 2 goals this campaign. Although Jerome would provide a different dimension up top, I doubt he would be the 10-15 goal scorer Birmingham so desperately need.