blues man embraces unwanted change as Rooney hatches perfect Birmingham City plan

Alex Dicken discusses Birmingham City’s 1-0 victory over Cardiff City on Wednesday night.
On Wednesday night, Birmingham City delivered their most complete performance under Wayne Rooney, putting a stop to their away day suffering.

Juninho Bacuna scored the game-winning goal against Cardiff City, giving Rooney his second victory in his tenth game in command of the Blues. Blues overcame an eight-game losing streak on the road by winning for the first time at Cardiff City Stadium.


Cardiff City v Birmingham City Live: Score updates as Bacuna nets on stroke  of half-time - Wales Online


It also alleviated some of the tension in the stands. Blues fans will be feeling more positive about Rooney today than they were yesterday.

There was a strategy in place, and it worked flawlessly. However, as Rooney later pointed out, this should not be a one-time occurrence.

About that game plan…

Rooney stressed the significance of maintaining a strong presence throughout the game in his pre-match briefing. He firmly believed that Cardiff wouldn’t possess the ability to overpower his team, and he trusted his players to secure a close victory.

His team achieved this by maintaining a solid defensive stance, executing calculated passes, and executing one decisive counter-attack. Rooney explained, “We focused on transitioning from one side of the pitch to the other, which created a good chance for Lee Buchanan, and Bacca scored from that move.”

“In the first half, we aimed to stay composed and played more in the opponent’s half. Despite having three attacking players with strong individual abilities, I was particularly pleased with their collaborative build-up play and Bacca’s composed finish for the goal.”

Regarding their focus, for the first time under Rooney’s management, the team didn’t falter when faced with pressure. Instead, they embraced the challenge and controlled the game in Cardiff’s territory. This approach was measured, controlled, and hopefully indicative of the team’s future performances.

Dembele embraced an unwanted switch

Rooney has shown particular support for Siriki Dembele in the past two days, notably with a moment shared between them at the end of the previous day’s training session and another during the celebrations after the match in Cardiff.

Initially, Dembele might have needed some convincing regarding his change in position. Being primarily a former Bournemouth and Peterborough winger, he isn’t accustomed to playing on the right flank and doesn’t particularly enjoy it.

However, this strategic shift was intentional. Despite his discomfort, Dembele managed to deliver a decisive pass that split the defense and led to Bacuna’s goal. Whenever he had possession, Dembele posed a threat and caused problems for the opposition.

Acknowledging Dembele’s preference, Rooney commented, “I understand he’s not enthusiastic about playing from the right. He prefers the left side or a central role. However, for tonight’s game, it was a tactical decision that I believed was necessary to secure the win. You can see the impact Dembele had in creating the first goal.”

Balance at the back – and a word on Aiwu

Dion Sanderson’s comeback and his resurgence in form triggered a significant defensive improvement for the team. The captain displayed a level of performance reminiscent of his pre-Rooney era against one of his former loan clubs.

Sanderson notably benefited from having a seasoned and no-nonsense partner in Marc Roberts. With Roberts alongside him, Sanderson could focus on his own game without the concerns he might have had with Emanuel Aiwu.

To Aiwu’s credit, he delivered his most impressive display for Blues while operating as an auxiliary right-back. His crucial last-ditch challenge on Karlan Grant in the first half potentially saved a goal. Aiwu celebrated this pivotal moment with exuberance, visibly showing his excitement by vigorously pumping his fists into the air.

Commenting on Aiwu’s performance, Rooney praised him, stating, “I thought he was fantastic. Given Ethan Laird’s injury and Cody Drameh’s absence, in the last game, we used Bacuna in that position. We made some adjustments with Manu to bolster our defensive solidity. Bringing Ivan Sunjic back into midfield also contributed positively from that perspective.”

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