It’s been a frustrating summer at St Andrews. The well documented financial woes forcing Blues into a corner where they were unable to make the signings Garry Monk so desperately wanted. High on the shopping list was a creative midfielder capable of unlocking defences and possessing a greater passing ability than, erm, Cheikh N’Doye.
The stringent transfer embargo enforced by the EFL meant that this didn’t happen, leaving Monk to work with the small squad he has. With N’Doye heading back to Angers on loan (sob) and Davis out injured for a while, it leaves Blues with Kieftenbeld, the Gardner brothers and the youngster Charlie Lakin as midfield options.
Most of these could be filed under the workhorse category rather than creative, meaning the chances have to come from elsewhere. Despite an excellent showing against Swansea, Jota hasn’t quite hit the heights his transfer fee dictates, so all eyes turn to Jacques Maghoma as Blues’ main threat.
He used to cut a frustrating figure at St Andrews but Maghoma has rapidly turned into Birmingham City’s most important player. More of an inside forward than out-and-out winger, Maghoma’s ability to push defenders back with his directness and trickery is key to how successful a season Birmingham will have.
How many times last season did we see the Congolese international grab the ball in his own half and yank the entire team forward with his driving runs? When Maghoma plays well, the team plays well.
It’s not just because of a lack of options however, without him, everything would be dramatically different. 5 goals and 6 assists on his way to cleaning up at the end of season awards doesn’t really tell the whole story. 4 of his goals came in games last season that Blues would end up winning and when the team only managed 13 wins in the entire season, that’s vital. Without those results, we would almost certainly have been relegated.
It’s difficult to choose which one is his most important goal considering the 4 winners, but his effort in the penultimate home against Sheffield United was huge. In a cagey and vitally important game for Blues, Maghoma stood head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch sending in the corner for Roberts’ 32nd minute goal as well displaying his ruthlessness by slotting home the winner in the second half.
His dribbling is a constant menace to the opposition, possessing the ability to go down the wing and or cut inside, more than one defender has been turned inside out by his tricks. It’s a thrilling sight to see Magz in full flow, attacking the box and slaloming his way through defenders and making it up as he goes along, I mean if he doesn’t know which way he’s going to go, how will his opponent?
The number 19 also happens to fit into Monk’s formation perfectly. With Jota on the other side, playing with two inverted wingers that frequently cut in, the full backs are able to push on and overlap creating more options. With Pedersen, who is already looking like a solid signing, behind Maghoma the signs are looking good down the left for the Blues with the pair linking up well a few times during Friday’s game against Swansea.
The match against Swansea highlighted how important Maghoma is. Blues dominated the game and should really have taken all 3 points but suffered from not having someone who could unlock the Welsh defence. Maghoma was a bit quieter compared to the marauding Jota and this may have contributed to why the chances dried up slightly in the second half. Maghoma didn’t have the best of games and Blues didn’t get the result.
But the statistics speak for themselves, averaging 1.9 dribbles a game and with the second best passing accuracy in the team (Behind Kieftenbeld, I’m as surprised as you are don’t worry), whatever happens this season, Jacques Maghoma will be the difference maker.
*Statistics from WhoScored.com