In my previous articles, I have spoken about different areas of the pitch. Last week we took a look at just how important Axel Tuanzebe was becoming for Dean Smith. This week I will focus purely on our midfield.

If any team in football are to dominate a game over the opponent then the midfield battle is always key. It was clear to see that towards the end of last season, it appeared that we have found the right balance. We had the attacking threat of Jack Grealish, supporters by Conor Hourihane and Birkir Bjarnason. Hourihane offered a box to box goal threat while Birkir offered defensive mobility.

Steve Bruce completed the £2.79M signing of Scotland midfielder John McGinn in August. The former Hibernian man has been impressive since his arrival but did he rock the stability of the midfield formula?

Smith finds a midfield formula

Just like before, it looked as if we had an embarrassing amount of individual talent and not an effective team. Enter Mr Smith.

Bjarnason lost his place in midfield following injurySmith opted for a midfield three of Bjarnason, McGinn and Grealish. Hourihane soon replaced Bjarnason due to injury. He deployed Bjarnason and then Hourihane in a deeper role. This maintains the mobility of the midfield but increases the forward attacking range of passing from the base of our midfield.

McGinn has taken over the box to box role but has added more ferocity to the position. Hourihane could be used in this position and be just as effective although McGinn’s ability to press and retrieve the ball high up the pitch is just how Smith wants his teams to play.

Then we have our magician. We all know that on his day Grealish has the ability to destroy any side in the Championship. The problem for 23-year-old has always been consistency. That is something only Grealish can improve himself.

A developing midfield

I will find it interesting to see how the midfield develops in the future. Will Smith look to use this system each game or will he tinker with it depending on the opposition?

Bjarnason lost his place due to an injury and Hourihane stepped up so what happens to the Icelandic midfielder? Does he bide his time and take his chance with both hands when it reappears? Some would argue he would walk into any other Championship side and it was clear he became disillusioned under Bruce.

Under Smith’s short tenure so far he has already demonstrated more awareness for the strengths of the opposition and management of his own players than his predecessor. With all eyes on the second City derby this weekend we would like to hope that he gets it right come Sunday lunchtime.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Hourihane can not play the box to box role/no. 8 – he just doesn’t have the energy or aggression. He can play 4/sitter or 10 off the striker (as he showed with his hat trick against Norwich at VP last season). Hourihane at 8 was just another of Bruce’s stupid mistakes!

    Lansbury is the replacement at 8. IF he is fit?? Or Bjarnasson.

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